Is Slave Lake a Write Off?

I used to say that my students shocked me with what they would come up with sometimes.  They don’t shock me anymore because I know they are just that good.  Now it’s just an expectation.

Today they looked at the Slave Lake Wildfire Crisis:

I found this photo on Twitter.  The kids were stunned with the devastation and widespread effects.

We spent some class time looking at various newspaper articles from the Edmonton Journal, The Calgary Herald, and the Toronto Sun.

And then the question was asked:  Is the town worth rebuilding?

Wow!  Talk about your critical thinking question!  Not to mention a bit of debate that sparked up.  Some kids were convinced we should take an eraser to the map of Alberta while other kids very quickly jumped in on the side of the people of the town who might be devastated by it’s loss.

In the end, we decided there are several questions that need to be answered before any decisions could be made.  I thought at first they might come up with more simplistic questions like “Did the school burn down?” and “How many homes burned down?”  But I know not to underestimate them now.  As a class they came up with these:

  • What will this town now bring to Alberta? (Economic)

  • How much money would it take to rebuild the town? (Economic)

  • What was the town’s contribution before the fire? Was it a strong economic factor to the Alberta economy or was it a hindrance? (Economic)

  • Where will the people go if it’s not rebuilt? What’s close by? (Societal)

  • If we rebuild, what can we add to make it even better contribution wise? (Economic)

  • If we rebuild the individual houses, where does the money come from? How long will the process take? (Economic)

  • How much of the town is left standing, and what will happen to those people if the town is not rebuilt? (Societal/Environmental/Economic)

  • What businesses are gone and what’s left? (Economic)

  • What systems can we put in place to make sure this event doesn’t repeat itself? (Future Planning)

  • What will happen to the area that’s been burned down? And what of the town is still useable? (Environmental)

  • What exactly is gone from the town? (Economic/Societal)

Do you see that some are in bold?    We wondered who was going to make this call (should the town be rebuilt) and we figured it likely came down to the Provincial Government.  We wondered which of these questions would be the most important for the Premier to answer before making this decision.  I asked my students to narrow it down to the four questions critical questions and they picked the ones in bold.

They set about trying to find information to answer these questions and many of them turned to Twitter and hashtags like #slavelake and #slavelakefire to find answers. 

Then we saw a tweet from Premier Ed Stelmach:

@premierstelmach: “I am on my way to Slave Lake today to see the fire situation first hand – #ableg”

We now wonder….what will the final decision be?  My class is still undecided…..


About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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