PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Grade 8 Humanities: Week of 1/9/17 Welcome to the Jungle


Dear Families,

You are hot, uncomfortable, dirty.

You are hungry.

You have to fight every second of every day for your survival.

If you let your guard down, someone else will snatch your only source of income away from you.

A big predator is stalking you relentlessly  . . .

It’s a jungle out there!


It is widely recognized that life for the poor, working class — many of them new immigrants — in the urban centers of early 1900s America was pretty terrible. This week we started Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to experience this transitional time in our history. Known as the Progressive Era, it seemed as if we needed to touch the bottom of the swamp in order to propel ourselves forward to something better. However, our discussions yielded something concerning. We noticed that our own survival and success often come at the expense of someone else. So, just as our protagonist, Juris, can acknowledge the suffering of the animals at the meat packing plant — he still really needs the job.

Muckraking in the early 20th century reminded us of the flood of information available to us in our own, modern society, and we realized that the contextualization and analysis of information matters. But, progressive reform historically has been a reaction to modernity, so it makes sense that things like “citizen journalism” and Wikileaks should be scrutinized so we can make informed decisions about what we are going to believe.

We will take the next seven weeks to complete The Jungle in book clubs or as independent studies. Whichever option is chosen, the reading and writing requirements are the same. We will:

  • Set norms/goals within our book clubs or as individuals to determine how each chapter should be read and discussed (i.e., what will need to be read at home and/or at school, how to use class time, how questions will be answered or substituted with reasonable alternatives, etc.)
  • Complete the study guide questions (or alternatives) in our binders for each chapter
  • Determine how time-management should be used to assist in the successful completion of the novel using the calendar provided
  • Participate in weekly full class discussions of the week’s assigned chapters (tentative dates: 1/9, 1/17, 1/23, 1/30, 2/6, 2/13)
  • Choose and complete a final project from the “Creative Responses” section in our Study Guides (or alternate)
  • Final Project is due February 28, 2017 (this is the Tuesday AFTER Mid-Winter Break)


The Jungle is admittedly a difficult book to initially “get into,” so I was very glad to receive this email from Ben on Saturday morning:





Ms. Sacilotto


“One could not stand and watch very long without being philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe…. Each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart’s desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self-importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.” — from The Jungle