Source: Nature: "Unforgettable Elephants"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
In this video segment from Nature, award-winning filmmaker Martyn Colbeck has traveled to Africa to learn about and photograph elephants. From the first day Colbeck was introduced to Echo, the matriarch of the elephant family, he was fascinated by these giant creatures and their relationships with each other. He observes the gentleness of the elephant family when a newborn elephant, Ely, was having trouble walking. The elephants had to decide whether to stay with the disabled calf or to perhaps let it die from the heat and dehydration. Miraculously, the calf adapted to his disability and with the support of his family, survived.
Africa, animal science, environment studies, cultural studies, photography, geography
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or science lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) How does an author’s perspective (point of view, values, beliefs) on a topic influence what he or she writes or how he or she portrays a topic or issue?
Focus (ELA) How do you think the author’s perspective about Echo’s family influenced the creation of this documentary?
Follow Up (ELA) Authors bring certain perspectives to their writing that affect the text's content. Their personal perspectives may influence them to interpret and represent themes differently. How do you think Colbeck feels about elephants and their relationships with each other? Think about other texts you’ve read or viewed about elephants. How do the perspectives of the authors differ or how are they similar? How do you know? Discuss why it is important as readers and viewers to consider the author’s perspective when evaluating a text.
Frame (SCI) Thinking like a scientist allows us to see things (or perceive them) in a different way than we normally would. For example, if you were a scientist, you would think about the weather one way. If you were a student getting dressed for school in the morning, you might think of weather differently. What other ways might a scientist think about things differently than you might?
Focus (SCI) As you watch the video, think like a scientist. Consider what issues pop up that might spark a scientist’s interests.
Follow Up (SCI) What scientific perspectives did you think of as you watched the video? Discuss them. (For example, the survival of the fittest species in the wild, communication among animals and between animals and humans and the cause of the disability experienced by Ely.)
MARTYN COLBECK: In 1990 I arrived on the plains below Mount Kilimanjaro. My intention was to record the intimate lives of one family of elephants over a long time – something that had never been done before. I needed to get close – physically and emotionally. One expert, Cynthia Moss, had already spent 20 years studying these elephants here in Kenya. I can still remember the first day that Cynthia Moss took me out and introduced me to a family of elephants, and it was extraordinary in two ways. One because we simply drove up and parked right in the middle of a family and they completely ignored us. So immediately you felt a very intimate relationship with the animals. The second was when she started telling me who they were. She knew every single individual, and there was a history to every single individual. That was the pivotal moment. It opened the door onto another world and I was immediately entranced. Echo, a 45 year-old female whose tusks almost touch, led this family. Their names all began with E. And within a few weeks of arriving in Amboseli National Park, I filmed an extraordinary event. I went out at dawn to find that during the night Echo had given birth, to a male calf. I soon realized something was wrong. A new-born elephant can usually stand within half an hour. My initial elation soon evaporated. The baby was unable to straighten his front legs. It was distressing to watch. Both Echo and her daughter Enid tried to get him to his feet. I was amazed how gentle they were. The rest of the family set off towards food and water, leaving Echo and Enid alone with the calf. Despite being over a kilometer away, I heard them communicating constantly, in low frequency rumbles. Echo’s daughter was clearly torn. Should she stay to look after the new calf or quench her thirst in the heat? The family continued to call. Raised feet betrayed their indecision. The stranded calf was becoming sunburnt and dehydrated. I felt helpless and unable to intervene. It looked like Enid might leave. I should have known better. As Echo tried again to help the calf to his feet, he screamed in distress. Enid spun round. Her rapid return revealed how close the family members were. I wasn’t optimistic about the calf’s chances. The following morning, I didn’t know what to expect. Incredibly, the calf was shuffling along in a kneeling position. Echo and her daughter paused frequently to let him catch up. His knees could easily become cut and infected. He risked a slow and painful death. The following day, there was another glimmer of hope. The calf seemed to be trying to stand. While the family rested, he never gave up. Unknowingly, I had recorded the first time this condition had been seen. The determined survivor was named Ely. He had been so big he couldn’t stretch out in the womb. Having been at his birth, I kept an eye on Ely’s progress over the next ten years. He was soon testing his strength with gentle sparring. As Ely grew he overcame other obstacles. For a short time he was partially paralyzed after eating toxic plants. When they reach their teens, young male elephants like Ely usually leave the family. He spent more time with other young bulls on the fringes until one day the family left without him. Ely was only ten. He was young to be on his own and at his most vulnerable. It was soon 3 years since Ely had last been seen. I was worried about him. Many young males don’t survive this difficult transition to adulthood. Bulls do sometimes disappear for years, only to turn up again. We looked everywhere, though I didn’t find him, which was sad, but maybe one day he will just reappear.
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We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.