Ted's teaching tips

5th January 2001 at 00:00
Horse racing is supposed to be the sport of kings, and its Arctic equivalent is in the same tradition. This vivid action photograph raises colourful issues, about life in frozen climates, animal racing and gambling.

Arctic life

Find the Arctic on a globe and look at some of the countries and islands (Russia, Norway, Finland, Greenland). What is life like in the Arctic Circle (24-hour days and nights in summer and winter; bitterly cold much of the year, but land areas can be relatively mild - 15C - in summer, causing problems when permafrost melts, more likely with global warming; some volcanic activity, mountains, glaciers, rivers)? What sort of plants and animals can cope with the extreme cold (lichens and mosses, coniferous trees, few flowers - arctic poppy, wild crocus; fur-coated, often white, animals like polar bear, Arctic fox, but no reptiles)? How do people adapt (use available materials for shelter and warmth, like blocks of ice, fur, wood; develop transport, such as sled and huskies, and pastimes, like reindeer racing and ice hockey, that suit the environment)?


Everyone knows about Santa and his sleigh, but why are reindeer important (source of meat, milk, furs for clothes and tents; strong enough, with large broad hooves, to transport people and goods over soft or icy surfaces; well adapted to cold, eat lichens, so cheap to keep)? What are their characteristics (unlike other deer, both male and female have horns; smaller than horses; good swimmers; males engage in fierce fights in the mating season; live in herds nd migrate for summer and winter)?

Sport and gambling

Betting is very popular in reindeer racing. What other sports attract gamblers (almost any: football, rugby, cricket, horse and greyhound racing, darts, snooker)? Is anyone allowed to gamble (children not allowed in betting shops, jockeys not permitted to bet on races they are in, rules limit places where gambling can take place, like casinos)? Why has sport and gambling been in the news (allegations of corruption, people "throwing" matches, or "fixing" the results of races)?


Find words for animals moving: adjectives such as "lithe", "powerful", "muscled", "sinewy", "majestic"; verbs such as "lope", "surge", "strain", "accelerate"; nouns such as "power", "strength", "beauty", "motion". Write a description of an animal in full flight - racing, hunting, or escaping.


Should people bet on races between animals?


Betting on races between animals is harmless fun. You can see the animals enjoy it; horses even carry on jumping when the jockey has fallen off. Without gambling the races would be pointless. A lot of skill is involved in picking winners: studying breeding, training, form.


Betting is a a disease. Some people are compulsive gamblers, wasting money that would be better spent on their family or home. It provokes greed and corruption, and people are tempted to cheat. Horses get whipped by their jockeys, and fallers can break a leg or die.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

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