World Wildlife Day Activity: Teach Problem-Solving and Protecting Animals

March 3rd was deemed World Wildlife Day by the United Nations to "celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants." The day serves as an important reminder that our earth is home to more than just human life—we need to take care of our planet because it is also home to countless other species of animals and plants. And on top of that, many forms of life on earth are in danger of becoming extinct! How can we teach our students to preserve the natural world?

One entry-point to discussing wildlife around the world is by focusing on the "Big Five" animals in Africa. The "Big Five" refers to the five animals one can hope to spot while out on a safari: the lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, and African buffalo [illustrated above from left to right]. You can learn more about each of these animals on the World Wildlife Fund blog.

People often assume that the hippo or the giraffe would be included in the five instead of the lesser-known buffalo. But the term was first used when these five animals were considered to be the most dangerous, so hunters would target them because it was a feat to show off that they had successfully killed a supposed predator. These days, luckily the term "Big Five" has since lost this association as people learn to protect animals and respect their habitats, instead of hunting them for sport or trophies.

But hunting does still occur in Africa, although for much more survival-based reasons than sport. Kenyan teenager Richard Turere lives in a part of the continent where his community's livelihood is dependent on their livestock. At age 12, Richard realized that their cows, sheep, and other animals were being preyed on by lions—and the majority of adults in the community understandably reacted to this threat by wanting to hunt the lions. Instead of reacting by hunting the hunters, Richard decided to come up with another solution that would protect his community's farm animals without needing to hunt the lions.

Richard Turere with his invention, Lion Lights, which flash in the night to warn off the predators from attacking his community's vital farm animals.

After realizing that using a flashlight at night helped ward off these predators, Richard came up with his invention: Lion Lights. His new device is attached around the livestock's pen with lights that flash throughout the night to discourage lions from approaching! Richard was able to identify a problem that was facing his community and come up with a solution that not only helped them and their animals, but also helped to protect the wild animals living in their natural habitat. Learn more about Richard and his invention by watching this short video in the Carmen Sandiego: Fearless Kids Around the World webseries.

After watching the video, talk through it and consider asking some of these questions:

  • Why is Kenya a special place in Africa? Which animals do we know live there that don't naturally live here in our hometown?
  • What is special about the place where we live? What plants and animals make our home unique?
  • What problem did Richards recognize in his community? What did Richard do to try to solve the problem?
  • Can you think of an animal or plant in our community that needs protecting? How would you help to protect them?

After the discussion, group students together and have each group brainstorm a solution to a local problem. Your students can use their collective ideas to focus on one local issue and to come up with a plan they could potentially implement within the school. Remind students that they do have the power to create positive change—for example, the recent trend to shift away from using plastic straws (because they are hazardous to sea turtles and ocean life) can be credited back to a 17 year-old Girl Scout.

If you're feeling really ambitious, have your students present their ideas and vote on which project they'd like to actually work on creating for the community! You never know, their inventions just might change the world, too.

What does World Wildlife Day look like in your classroom? Let us know on Twitter @LeadAndLearn or @edu_onalee.

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For more ideas and support, use the full free lesson plan for Grades 4–8, “Solving a Community Problem," to help students build decision-making and social-awareness skills.

Each webisode of Carmen Sandiego’s Fearless Kids Around the World comes paired with free social-emotional learning activities following the CASEL framework to build relevant competencies. Download these SEL activities and lesson plans to inspire your students at carmensandiego.com/fearlesskids.

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