I think stories have tremendous influence on children. So what do our children learn after reading that story [Little Red Riding Hood]? Will they learn to respect and value living creatures and seek to co-exist, or do they walk away fearing wolves and feeling a little bit happy and relieved at wolf’s gruesome fate at the end of the story?
From Maria Arefieva, school’s visionary and co-founder:
Long before I became a mother I was a wildlife advocate. Through many hours of volunteer work for various nonprofit projects I learned not only how incredibly fascinating our wildlife is, but also the tragic story of its mismanagement that led to the near extinction of such iconic and magnificent creatures as the bald eagle, American bison and of course the majestic wolf.
It was heartbreaking to learn that with the arrival of European settlers the population of the beautiful and gentle bison went from about 50,000,000 down to just about 23 bison who managed to survive in central Yellowstone. From 50 million to 23 individuals! (source: Buffalo Field Campaign).
But the wild creature and story that touched my heart most was the wolf. It was after having read a story of a biologist in the former Soviet Union who in his studies ended up living for 2 years among a wolf pack. His story of acceptance into the pack and his life among the wolves and my further studies on this subject, including a visit to the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, made me realize just how wrong the common conception of the wolf is and what a dear price this incredible animal paid for it.
We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.”Biologist Farley Mowatt, Author ‘Never Cry Wolf’
Contrary to what we read in fairy tales or see in Hollywood spectacles the wolves pose no threat to people (see some facts and figures here) and are in fact are very shy of people. And when it comes to their personality — everything that we love and hold dear about our canine companions comes directly from the wolf as their original ancestor. The intelligence, the loyalty, the fierceness, the playfulness and utter dedication to its family are all wolves traits. Wolves are that and so much more!
You can probably tell I can go on on this subject for quite a while longer. 🙂 But going back to the school’s name. The story of little Red Riding Hood is a perfect example of prejudice against wolves created and spread through ages-old folklore. I think stories have tremendous influence on children. So what do our children learn after reading that story? Will they learn to respect and value living creatures and seek to co-exist, or do they walk away fearing wolves and feeling a little bit happy and relieved at wolf’s gruesome fate at the end of the story?
So I always wanted to retell the famous fairy tale. I wanted to make it a story where children aren’t naive and helpless victims and the animals aren’t the vicious and clever villains. But instead the children are brave and intelligent, and they love, understand and respect the wild.
Speaking less poetically, our mission is to bring children to view the wilderness and its creatures for what they actually are based on real facts, instead of fearing them as a result of some old misconceptions. We want children to recognize animals as sentient creatures deserving respect and kindness of heart. And we believe this general approach will give them the type world outlook where they learn to seek the facts in order to make their judgement in any field of life.