In this inquiry-based framework I give you an approach for students to understand the larger questions raised by my middle grade novel.
I believe that evil can only be vanquished
if it is understood.
When I say “it” I mean the fentanyl industry, from soup to nuts. Or, understanding the evil enterprise in its totality, from the making of fentanyl, to the distribution (smuggling), to an overdose by an addict. Yes, it’s an ugly business, but it’s not complicated to understand that it is all driven by greed.
I believe students can be empowered to fight not only fentanyl, but street drugs generally. Through following this inquiry-based process they will uncover the callous, money-grubbing thinking that is blind to the tragic suffering of millions of families.
From a middle grade student’s point of view their indirect or direct exposure to this crisis is probably hearing about an overdose…or having one! But Never Less shows there are far reaching implications. Never Less addresses questions about:
…just to name just a few.
However, learning is enhanced when coupled with the emotional weight of an age-appropriate story like Never Less. They will love following Mindy and Pablo’s adventure to save her dad!Here are some compelling reasons to consider inquiry-based teaching:
Thank you for considering me for a one day school visit
and giving me the opportunity to show my professional development approach to giving your students a fighting chance against street drugs. These evils are no contest to the empowered student.
I look forward to discussing this further with you.
Email me at:
or call me at (646) 919-0002
Curiosity: Pablo is in a hopeless situation. What does he do?
Except from Chapter 27:
The Fish Factory.
[¿] – This indicates an opportunity to ask an inquiry-based question.
[≈] – This indicates an opportunity to explore vocabulary.
I’m shoved along by Sockeye, Bald, and the gang from the bottom of the ship up galleys and through thick metal doors till we come into a large, cold white space vibrating with industry and the smell of fish. The hum and clank of conveyer belts and packaging machines echo off the twenty-foot-high ceiling of pipes, bright lighting, and refrigeration vents. Men in bright yellow waterproofs handle the slithering silver three-foot fish as they process each down to shrink-wrapped slices on polystyrene platters, which they throw into boxes of dry ice.[¿ WHY WOULD A DRUG GANG TAKE PABLO TO A FISH FACTORY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN?]
We climb more stairs and come into a quiet and orderly observation deck. Bald shakes the hand of the bearded and rotund operational manager. I, of course, am ignored. Through the slanted window I look down on the processing plant we just came from.
“Come away from the glass, please,” the manager says, then lowers his voice and asks Sockeye, “What are they going to do with him?”
Sockeye points at Bald. I turn my back on them as if I can’t hear.
“He’ll be part of the program,” Bald says. The ops manager shakes his head and presses his lips together. “In the underage testing control group,” Bald adds, muttering under his breath.
The manager lurches toward Jordan. “After my China shipment is off-loaded, we load the boxed fish. Nineteen hundred hours, back here, okay? Now get out of here,” he says, dismissing Sockeye, whose name is . . . Jordan? I make a mental note to find out where he’s bunking. [¿ WHY DOES THE AUTHOR MENTION CHINA HERE?]
I want my knife back.
The manager hands something to Bald. “The boy is your responsibility, so you two will share the guest quarters,” he says, stabbing Bald’s chest with a commanding finger.
I draw in a deep breath and rub my eyes. How can I be fish food if Bald needs me for his program? Could it be worse than death?
Later, Bald prods me awake in the bunk he’s assigned me. “Hey . . . hey, kid, wake up. You hungry?”
I jolt upright. A cold fog clears my head as I remember I’m on a floating fish factory ship. I rub my hand over my face to wipe away beads of sweat around my mouth. Yes, I’m hungry. This ship must have all the services to support the men who work here—I haven’t seen any women. And this man, this doctor of pharmacology who I have been calling Bald—because he is—seems to be looking out for me. He’s prodded me awake and is treating me like I’m a lab rat for his experiments. [¿ WHY IS THE “PROGRAM” SO SCARY?]He doesn’t want to lose me.
But he will. Bald wants his family back.
“Did you find your wife and daughter?” I ask.
“You don’t know about them, okay? Go take a shower, then get lunch in the mess. Come to the observation deck when you’re done.”
My mouth is dry, and if Bald hadn’t woken me my growling stomach would have. The quarters, as the manager called them, are quite comfortable—not like Mindy’s bathroom, and this shower and everything is definitely not for the laborers down there on the factory floor. Doctor Bald carries some weight on this ship, which makes me dress quickly to get away from him. Peter’s phone is still there—tucked into my shoe under my sock, hiding in plain sight.
Bald gives me directions to the mess and explains that it’s not a mess [≈ DOUBLE ENTENDRE], it’s a kitchen and dining hall. “If you get lost, ask someone. Everyone knows where it is.”
When I enter it’s quite tidy. The mess is deserted but for a couple of stragglers who ignore me and mumble into their soup. The cook, scraping down the short-stack plate, greets me in Spanish—much to my relief.
“Why are they letting you wander around unsupervised?” he asks me, speaking English.
“Where am I going to go?” I say.
“Why? You want to run away?”
Actually, yes—but I don’t say that. I do say, “I’m hungry.”
“Want a burrito?”
My mouth waters. “Love one,” I say. “But not fish. Can you do that?” I’ve lost my appetite for fish—since they might soon be feeding on me.
The cook smirks. “You’re in luck, my friend. I have pulled pork.”
“Oh yes, thanks. And after, can you show me how to get outside?”
He nods as he works on my meal. I sit on a steel chair at a long steel table next to his work station. Unless I’m going crazy, this cook is friendly—in a good way. [¿ WHAT DOES HE MEAN HERE?]But can I trust him?
“Here you go,” he says and places a large plate on the pickup counter. “I made them chimichanga style for you.”
The three lightly fried pork burritos sprinkled with lime and served with a side of fiery salsa, beans, and rice drives me almost insane it is so delicious.[¿EVER TRIED MAKING THESE? ASK YOUR STUDENTS…]
“Good?” he asks.
“Man, this is so good. Thank you so much, sir,” I say. “This is excellent.”
“Juan. Call me Juan. You?” he asks, pointing at me.
“Who are you with?”
“The doctor,” I say.
I can’t call him Bald and I don’t know his name. But it doesn’t matter.
Juan wrinkles his nose and tilts his head to one side. “Which one? The pharmacy guy?”
He takes my plate. “This is not a cruise ship, Pablo. Be careful. But come. I’ll show you a way outside.” He leads me through the mess kitchen to a rear door with a keyless combination deadbolt pad, and says, “Nine-two-four-three, if you need to get in and I’m not here.”
Why would he say that? First, he tells me to be careful, but he doesn’t know Bald the way I do. Then he gives me a place to hide.