Teachers have a special opportunity to expand awareness of endangered species conservation.
Note: Since the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in the closure of many (most) schools, you can adapt these activities for online instruction or whatever other teaching methods you are currently using. Most of the class discussions can be arranged by using Skype, Facetime or a similar application.
Classroom/Outdoor Activities For School & Home School Teachers
*Add an endangered species conservation component to your curriculum. See below for some suggestions.
*Discuss how a lack of biodiversity/habitat destruction could foster conditions for new viruses.
“I ask them (students) to visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and select two endangered species to research, including their life history and reproductive strategy. Then they suggest a conservation plan to help rebuild their endangered species population.” *Biology Teacher at Land Community College, Springfield, Illinois
*Have students read an article or book about an endangered species and discuss why it is endangered and suggest ideas for how to help protect the species.
*Organize a classroom or online discussion about the medicinal value of plants. Emphasize that many remedies for headaches, upset stomachs, sore throats and other ailments originated from plant materials. Have students research and write a report on how a specific rare/threatened/endangered plant from your region provides such a special benefit.
* Schedule a guest speaker from a conservation organization to talk about local endangered species, including why they are endangered, what is being done to help, and how our everyday actions make a difference. (See Resources page for Podcast links, which could be an at-home option.)
“Just as it is important to highlight endangered species recovery successes, it is critical to emphasize that an individual’s everyday actions make a difference. This can include activities involving environmental stewardship, wildlife habitats, and conservation group field trips. As part of the stewardship exercise, students brainstorm potential activities that they can participate in, such as removing invasive plant species; restoring stream banks, wetlands, marshes and prairies; planting native plants; maintaining hiking trails; participating in bird and butterfly counts; cleaning up a park or neighborhood; building and checking bird boxes; and monitoring water quality. You and your students can evaluate the activities that would be applicable to do as a group during school hours and then make the appropriate arrangements. Of course, since the current Pandemic environment means that they likely can’t be completed as in-school class projects, students can arrange to complete a stewardship activity in smaller groups (with adult supervision if necessary) or on their own.” *Dr. Wendy Brown, Biological Science Instructor, Danville Area Community College (Danville, IL)
*Ask students to write a report about their favorite threatened or endangered species and then present to the class.
*Have students create a plan for how they can make their home more “wildlife friendly.”
*Hold a class discussion about the overuse of plastics and ask students for their ideas to help reduce the use of such items as straws and cups. Also, about how to help clean up the plastic waste that already exists.
*Discuss current events about local threatened and endangered species.
*Ask a few other teachers to help you organize a school-wide Endangered Species Day fair with exhibits (when school is back in session after the C-19 crisis.)
“I distributed lists of endangered species and encouraged my students to do some online research as they viewed graphic images of a species they might consider for their paintings (for the annual Saving Endangered Species Art Contest). They also viewed art created by other students whose work was selected for the previous contest and made important connections with students from other regions…I reminded the students that they might find out their chosen species could actually come off the endangered list and we discussed what would be the reasons. They also had great discussions about some of the endangered species found in their own region of Cape Cod.” *Deborah Greenwood, art teacher at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School (Cape Cod, Mass.), as originally seen in the January, 2019 issue of Arts & Activities Magazine
*Create an online image gallery that students can access; to include their endangered species artwork, along with other illustrations and photos.
*Hold a Save Our Species poster/display contest.
*Have students write letters to your local government representative asking them to support legislation to help protect threatened/endangered species.
* Create displays about endangered species in the school library; including photos, artwork, books and other material.
Zoila Donneys, a Visual Communications professor at Lone Star College-Kingwood (TX), assigned her students a project that would support the environment. They developed a graphic design/marketing campaign to assist local parks, nonprofit wildlife groups and other environmental organizations. Students participating in the Design-A-Thon program assisted such groups as Save our Leatherback Turtles, 0-13 Tiny Paws Rescue and Keep Houston Beautiful. One student created a campaign with a logo and various marketing materials aimed at protecting the Galapagos sea lions and another focused on “Save the Javan Rhino.”
*Let the class decide on a specific endangered species to “adopt.”
*Study the species and their habitats in your region that are especially vulnerable.
A teacher at Peak Charter School in Lafayette, Colo. developed an environmental curriculum for the Innovation and Design Thinking class. The high school students created a brochure, social media account and website with games to educate other young people about the state’s endangered species.
When time and school regulations permit, here are some excursions/other outdoor activities:
*Go on a nature walk and discuss how animals, including endangered species, rely on a healthy environment to survive.
*Take your class to help with a habitat restoration project. (Work with your local conservation department or an environmental group.)
*Encourage students to keep a nature journal, observing/writing about and illustrating their favorite species and their habitats. The NAAEE offers a Guide to Nature Journaling that should give you some initial ideas.
*Organize a fundraiser and donate money to conservation organizations that help endangered species.
*Plant a pollinator garden on school grounds or a nearby site.
*Arrange a class trip to a local conservation center, zoo or aquarium, or nearby park/forest area to learn about local endangered species and the importance of preserving our critical habitats.
*Organize a schoolyard nature scavenger (observation) hunt. Have students use an app like iNaturalist, PlantSnap, or Seek to identify animals and plants in the immediate area. They can then record the basic information about their sightings.
*Ask students to make their own field guide of animals and plants they identify. This can be as basic or detailed as you feel is appropriate for their grade level.
*Create a class or schoolwide species sighting wall (or virtual poster using Google Slides, Padlet, Google Jamboard, etc.). They could potentially graph the sightings to show how some organisms are seen more often than others, and relate that to population, habitat availability, and other factors.
The above three activities were suggested by Derrick Wellesley, an eighth-grade science teacher at Neosho Junior High School (Neosho, MO) and a member of The Endangered Species Conservation Site Advisory Board. Derrick noted that depending on where you’re located and the area where you organize the activities, they don’t necessary lend themselves directly to teaching about endangered species. However, they could be ideal discussion starters about endangered species conservation
**Please share your additional ways to teach about endangered species.
Teaching Aids/Lesson Plans
Following are a few lesson plans/instructional guides: