The call from the Alaska state police may come at any time of the day or night. There’s been an accident on a highway somewhere in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley near Anchorage, and teacher Tim Lundt and several of the staff and students at Burchell High School have to move fast. If they don’t reach the scene within an hour, police will call someone else, and Burchell High will have missed the opportunity to collect one of its prized teaching tools: a dead moose.
Collecting road-kill moose has been a tradition at Burchell for years. The school, an alternative education program in the town of Wasilla, enrolls 200 high school students ages 16 to 21, many of whom struggled in traditional schools. As part of their vocational training, the kids are taught to skin and butcher moose that have met an unfortunate fate on the highway. Moose is a staple food in Alaska--beef is scarce--and Burchell staff and students cook and can the meat to serve at the school’s food bank.
Last year, Lundt, a 37-year-old science teacher at Burchell, seized upon a way to make even more use of moose. Beginning in January, he and his biology students reconstructed the skeleton from a 2-year-old moose found dead on a nearby road. After boiling and bleaching the bones in a hydrogen peroxide solution, they studied anatomy texts and diagrams, identified the various body parts, and discussed the animal’s evolution. Then, they pieced together the frame of the 600-pound beast using a strong epoxy. By May, the kids had a seven-foot-long, five-foot-high skeleton--and a lesson they’re not likely to forget.
Lundt says the kids were excited by the project because it was hands-on science that taught them real-life skills. “Dissecting frogs,” he explains, “is not going to do them any good.” Now, the Burchell staff and students are capitalizing on their moose expertise to make money for the school. They’ve self-published “Moose in the Pot Cookbook,” an everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-moose guide. The book touts the nutritional value of game meat, offers a grisly how-to for butchering moose, and gives the ins and outs of signing on to the state police’s road-kill contact list. But the book’s 88 recipes for moose are its chief selling point: Moose spaghetti, moose Swedish meatballs, dry-cured moose pepperoni, and moose chili are all covered here, as well as dozens of recipes for moose steak, including moose teriyaki and moose braised in cream.
The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation gave Burchell a $5,000 grant to help make the book. The foundation’s Sharon Fisher calls it “an excellent example of teaching science in an Alaskan context.” Completed in November, the book has sold 300 copies at $13 each. The money will help the school equip what was once a bare-bones science lab. When Lundt arrived at the school three years ago, it didn’t even have a beaker. Today, thanks to cookbook sales and grants, the school has glassware, microscopes, and a fume vent.
Hoping for some national publicity to boost sales, Lundt and his students sent the cookbooks to David Letterman, Jay Leno, and other talk-show hosts. They got no takers, but People is preparing a story on Burchell. Recently, a photographer from the magazine tagged along as Lundt and his kids retrieved a fresh carcass, snapping frame after frame of the bloody adventure. It was 20 degrees below, but they polished off their work in a hurry. “We were back at school in less than an hour,” Lundt says proudly.
For a copy of Moose in the Pot Cookbook, send $13, plus $3.20 shipping and handling, to: Tim Lundt, Burchell High School, 1775 W. Parks Highway, Wasilla, AK 99654.