To mine or not to mine, that is the question. It has definitely been a question cycling around my classroom lately. Area legislators Senator Holperin and Representative Tiffany recently came into our classroom, and we discussed different topics that we were interested in learning more about. Mining seemed to come up quite a lot when we talked to them. So this sparked the interest of the class and also my teacher, Mr. Losch.
We also recently watched a TED talk about co-led projects. TED (www.ted.com) is a website that hosts hundreds of “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” It is a great collection of speeches by influential people.
A speech on co-led projects reminded us of our own school, but with a twist. We are used to being more student-led, so we choose our speed and what we learn about. Mr. Losch has wanted to bring some more structure into the room, but we didn’t want to go to the level of fully teacher-led, where he chooses what we do at all times. So we turned to this “co-led” idea to have both students and the teacher lead the project. With the recent peak of interest on the mining project, we decided to do the first co-led project on the proposed mining of northern Wisconsin and legislative talks taking place to change Wisconsin’s mining laws.
At our school, we first propose a project idea and write out what we hope to accomplish with the project, and the steps to do so. Mr. Losch proposed this project for us, and outlined some basic steps. Then we were able to decide what the end product was going to be, and filled in some more of our own steps. We had to choose at least one of the following: a public service announcement, a letter to the editor, a prezi/animoto (presentation software), or a poster. Then we had to finish the product by a specific deadline.
We were given 10 sources to review, anything from Gogebic Taconite’s website (GTAC), the company looking to mine near Ashland, CleanWisconsin.org (anti-mining source), and the DNR (a neutral source). After reading through all of the sources and learning about various things like ferrous and non-ferrous mining, and the process that would take place to be able to mine, we had to decide our opinion on the matter; if we are generally in favor, opposed, or neutral towards the two proposed mines in northern Wisconsin.
For my project, I took it a different direction to understand more about Ojibwa history. I learned their opinion about mining, which tends to be very anti-mining. From there I decided to make a poster, I compared a major group from each side (pro and anti), GTAC and the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians. I created a Ying-Yang like design to show the relationship between the two groups. What both groups have in common is that they are advocating for what they see as a proper use of our natural resources. They differ in the actions that support their proper use.
Other students in my class came to different conclusions, with several on each side, pro and anti-mining. The products varied from letters to the editor, to a web describing the pros and cons of mining. It was very interesting to see all of the conclusions/opinions made by my peers. Each of us had to defend our views to each other. Some kids ended up pro-mining due to the amount of people that it would bring to northern Wisconsin, and also the amount of jobs that will be available. Some kids ended up anti-mining due to the affect mining may have on the environment. Some students focused on economics, others history, and some on science when making their choice.
You may not know what is happening at this moment about the mining legislation and how it may change, but it may change your outlook on mining. I know from this project that I am anti-mining. Who would want to damage our beautiful Northwoods? But you may have your own opinion, and believe it or not, you can make an impact on the decisions on what might or might not happen to Northern Wisconsin.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in the Our Turn column reflect those of the author. They are not necessarily the views of the author’s instructors, Northwoods Community Secondary School, the School District of Rhinelander or this newspaper.