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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions
Watching for Mammoth

Essay Summary:  Kantner, his wife, and a friend take a walk on the tundra in search of mammoth bones. They encounter a bear while picking berries. Kantner imagines watching a herd of mammoth and ponders what the changing times will bring. He delivers a powerful conclusion that suggests the readers protect their own sacred places with the same love and intensity of their own.

Discussion Questions:

Why does the sight of the survey marker create such intense feelings for Kantner? (p. 228)

Points to consider:

  • The designating of ownership of the land and the restrictions that come with it represent a further restricting of Kantner's lifestyle.

Why do you think that Kantner says people will "always frighten" him most?

Points to consider:

  • Perhaps growing up away from people has left him more comfortable with animals and with a slight distrust of humans.

Why does Kantner imagine seeing mammoths grazing down on the tundra below him?

Points to consider:

  • The mammoth once made that same land home, and perhaps he is imagining how they felt as their way of life dwindled as they went extinct.

What does Kantner reveal about why he's shared his stories?

Points to consider:

  • Partly, he's doing this to share his treasure and remind people to "stand and guard" their own favorite places.

Final Questions:

In what ways has his favorite place changed?

How does Kantner connect the change he has seen with the changes the mammoth, saber-toothed tigers, and ancient men saw?

How does Kantner's conclusion to this essay wrap up the entire book? What does he leave the readers thinking about?

What does he mean when he says that we don't know how "not" to continue taking things?

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