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The Bigfoot Project Topic: Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Target Age: 8-15 Planning Framework: Romantic Unit length: 1-2 weeks Unit author: Andrew Bellis Moral Theme: The unexplained. Mysterious creatures defy scientific inquiry. Imaginative Theme: Student "cryptozoologists" research a variety of evidence reports and present findings. Tools of Imaginative Engagement (TIEs): Heroic Feats and Quests: Reports of large, bipedal, hair-covered creatures inhabiting remote wilderness areas of Western North America are not recent "pop-culture" phenomena. The "wild man of the woods" is a common element in First Nations oral and artistic traditions and each group has a particular name for the creature. Written references fitting the description of Bigfoot go back almost 200 years. While a variety of creatures, such as "trolls" and "unicorns," have in our collective consciousness been firmly classified as "mythological" beasts, Bigfoot has heroically avoided the same fate. Despite lack of any "concrete" evidence of its existence (no Bigfoot has been killed or captured), footprints, photographs, hair samples, and hundreds of sightings are reported every year. And when startling new evidence, such as video footage of the creature, comes to light, it receives international media attention and member of the scientific community converge to critique the validity of the material. If Bigfoot is real, he is perhaps the most elusive creature the world has known and his efforts to avoid human detection are truly heroic. If he is not, he is possibly the world’s most enduring myth. Either way, it’s a fascinating story. Extremes: Cryptozoology is the study of animals that have not been proven scientifically to exist. Bigfoot is an animal at the "fringe" of reality. It is possible that such a creature exists and there is fossil evidence of its past existence. Gigantopithecus blacki was the largest primate known to have existed, and while it is assumed to have gone extinct 300, 000 years ago, it probably walked upright and fit the typical description of Bigfoot. Some scientists believe Gigantopithecus may have crossed the land bridge from Asia between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago and survived into the modern era. Wonder: As one of the great "mysteries of the universe," Bigfoot is inherently engaging to the typical student. Egan notes how "[w]onder is stimulated most easily by those features of the world and of experience that are, or can be thought of as strange and exotic" (Egan 79). What could be more strange and exotic than the possibility of 7-foot human-like primates inhabiting the North American wilderness? Humanization of Meaning: "Evidence" in support of the existence of Bigfoot can evoke powerful emotions. Eerie sound recordings of howls and screams in the woods or of recorded 911 emergency calls involving Bigfoot can be spine-chilling. Encounters with Bigfoot are often emotional experiences for eyewitness and their accounts convey their fear, anxiety, and wonder at the change in their perception of reality that confronts them. Narrative Understanding: As mentioned, Bigfoot "evidence" often takes the form of personal accounts, which are "narratives" in themselves. As a unit, the Bigfoot project provides a narrative context for students as they assume the role of "cryptozoologists" investigating various pieces ofevidence. Revolt and Idealism: Shunned or dismissed by the broader scientific community, many bigfoot researchers have toiled for decades with little support for their efforts. A look at the life of "sasquatch hunter" Rene Dahinden, who died in 1995 after more than forty years of relentless search for the creature, is a study in "revolt and idealism." Changing the Context The Bigfoot project provides an opportunity to address traditional learning outcomes in a new context. Graphing the size of the students’ footprints and stride length, for instance, provides an interesting context for studying graphing and the "bell-shaped curve." The Literate Eye Collecting and organizing various forms of Bigfoot evidence into graphs, charts, and maps will help students gain control over the knowledge acquired through their research. Modular Theme: The Bigfoot project will stem from a mystery introduced in the novel Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs. Set on the Olympic Peninsula in 1874, it alludes to a "Hairy Man" claimed by the local Makah to inhabit the woods. As cryptozoologists, students will look at various pieces of evidence to come to a conclusion on the existence of Bigfoot.
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