MARCH breACK! 2013, or, Ahma, the Spirit Bear: A Tentative Schedule


ACK! It’s officially MARCH breACK!  So here it is, a basic description and tentative schedule for this year’s MARCH breACK! Madness, 2013.

Illustrate-Your-Own-Books 2013: Ahma, the Spirit Bear
Each year, during MARCH breACK!, I write a little chapter book for the kids to illustrate, usually based on an existing tale or story.  This year, Bea wanted Jane Austen’s Emma, but “with bears.”  When asked which bears were her favourite, she replied, “Kermode Bears!”  So, I’ve reset Austen’s Emma in an isolated community of Spirit Bears on The Princess Royal Island in Northern British Columbia.

Southeast Spirit BearWhite Kermode bears, also known as “Spirit Bears” are a subspecies of the American Black Bear. They have distinctive white coats which are not the effects of albinism but of a recessive gene among the species. They live along the coasts of Northern British Columbia, Canada, in an area known as the Great Bear Rainforest.   The rare bears have survived until now largely because native peoples saw and continue to see them as sacred. [We’ll learn more about this as the week progresses]. However, the legal hunting of the Black Kermode Bear [often the spirit bear’s parent or offspring, and the potential carrier of the recessive Kermode gene] puts the Spirit Bear at risk. Morseso, modern industry [salmon farming, oil pipelines, and ship or tanker traffic] endangers these precious creatures via the ecosystem. [See, for example, the World Wildlife Fund’s recent article re: Oil Pipelines.]

The White Kermode are known to the Tsimshian [a group of 14 tribes of indigenous people in Northwest Canada] not only, in English as the sacred “Spirit Bear,” but also, in Sm’algyax, the primary Tsimshian language, as “Moskgm’ol.”  I named our main character “Amha” which is short for”Amhalaayt,” the Sm’algyax term for “chief’s headdress.” I thought this would be a nice name for a female cub who is the apple of her father’s eye.  The kids will follow along as Amha learns a little about herself as she attempts to match up her friends with other bears in the neighbourhood.

While our story,  in the end, remains largely a comedy or “romance of the great bear rainforest,” and, while, of course, we will bake plenty of treats, our related art, science, and media studies will help us open our eyes to the situation of these bears in terms of Native Canadian history and in terms of today’s social and  political climate. We’ll also be exploring representations of the Spirit Bear in Tsimshian artwork to see how we might incorporate a similar style as we vie for the sustained livelihood for the Spirit Bear in our own projects.

Monday, March 11, 2013
Read:  Section I of Amha the Spirit Bear: Old Married Bears and Unmarried Bears
Illustrate: Section I of Amha with Oil Pastels
Create: Spirit Bear Portraits on Newsprint with Easy Dowel Frames
Science & Society:  Kermode Bear Genetics: Learning about Biology & Probability by Copying a Scientific Illustration
Bake:  Mrs.Haymaddm ‘s Salmon Wedding Cakes [Pink Chocolate/Peanut Butter Cupcakes]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Read: Section II of Amha the Spirit Bear: A “Sleuth” of Proposals
Illustrate: Section II of Amha with Eraser & Poster-Paint Pointillism
Create: Spirit Bear Silhouettes, Two Ways
Science & Society: Creating Protest Posters to Stop Proposed Oil Pipelines and Tanker Traffic in the Great Bear Rainforest
Bake: Spirit Bear Claws [Danish Pastries with Chocolate Filling]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Bake: Little Kermode Breads and Strawberry Soup
Science & Society: Read Library books about Spirit Bears and the Great Bear Rainforest
Mathwiz: Check out Nagda and Bickel’s Polar Bear Math: Learning about Fractions from Klondike and Snow

Thursday, March 14, 2013 [with Papa]
Read: Section III of Amha the Spirit Bear: In Which Harriet Hooltga Gyemk is Saved and Jane Ha-Liimi Tries Not to Be
Illustrate:  Section III of Amha with Permanent Ink and Watercolour
Art & Society: Paint Spirit Bear “Clan” Drum Faces as inspired by Tsimshian artists and the Four Tsimshian Clans [Eagle, Killer Whale, Raven & Wolf]
Mathwiz: “Spirit Bear Dice Game” Printable Math Worksheet [to use with Gummy Bears]
Bake: Kermode Bear Paw Cookies, White Grape & Gummy Bear Popsicles

Friday, March 15, 2013
Read: Section IV of Amha the Spirit Bear: A Berry Picking Party and What Follows
Illustrate: Section IV of Amha with Coloured Pencils & Textures for Rubbing
Create: Spirit Bear Stick Puppets and Finger-Walking Bear Puppets
Mathwiz:“Kermode’s Path” Printable Math Game [to Use with a Gummy Bear]
Bake: Spirit Bear S’mores from Scratch

Saturday and Sunday, March 16-17, 2013
Play: Improvise a concise version of Ahma the Spirit Bear, using drums, masks, book illustrations, and puppets.

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