Save an Endangered Species Classroom Campaign

Help students create campaigns to save endangered species. Photo by Steve Hillebrand / USFWS

Lesson Plan

Student groups will develop advertising campaigns to save endangered species. This creative science project will help give students a deeper understanding of how human activities affect the survival of other species on Earth.

Grade Range

5 to 8

Duration

2 or 3 class periods

Background

Species become endangered and go extinct for many complex reasons, but some of the primary causes are easy to pin down.

Prepare for the lesson by considering five major causes of species decline:

1. Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction is the most critical factor affecting the endangerment of species. As more people populate the planet, human activities destroy more wild habitats and pollute the natural landscape. These actions kill some species outright and push others into areas where they can't find the food and shelter they need to survive. Often, when one animal suffers from human encroachment, it affects many other species in its food web, so more than one species' population begins to decline.

2. Introduction of Exotic Species

An exotic species is an animal, plant, or insect that is transplanted, or introduced, to a place where it did not evolve naturally. Exotic species often have a predatory or competitive advantage over native species, which have been a part of a particular biological environment for centuries.

Even though native species are well adapted to their surroundings, they may not be able to deal with species that closely compete with them for food or hunt in ways that native species has not developed defenses against. As a result, native species either cannot find enough food to survive or are killed in such numbers as to endanger survival as a species.

3. Illegal Hunting

Species all over the world are hunted illegally (also known as poaching). When hunters ignore governmental rules that regulate the number of animals that should be hunted, they reduce populations to the point that species become endangered.

4. Legal Exploitation

Even legal hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild species can lead to population reductions that force species to become endangered.

5. Natural Causes

Extinction is a natural biological process that has been a part of species' evolution since the beginning of time, long before humans were a part of the world's biota. Natural factors such as overspecialization, competition, climate change, or catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have driven species to endangerment and extinction.

Discussion

Get students focused on endangered species and initiate a thoughtful discussion with a few questions, such as:

  • What does it mean for a species to be endangered?
  • Do you know of any animals or plants that are endangered (or have gone extinct)?
  • Can you think of reasons why species become endangered?
  • Do you see activities in your local area that could affect animal or plant species in a negative way?
  • Does it matter that species decline or go extinct?

Gearing Up

Divide the class into groups of two to four students.

Provide each group with poster board, art supplies, and magazines that feature photos of endangered species (National Geographic, Ranger Rick, National Wildlife, etc.).

To make presentation boards visually exciting, encourage students to use bold headings, drawings, photo collages, and creative touches. Artistic/drawing talent is not part of the criteria, but it's important that students use their individual creative strengths to produce an engaging campaign.

Research

Assign an endangered species to each group or have students draw a species from a hat. You can find endangered species ideas at ARKive.

Groups will spend one class period (and optional homework time) researching their species using the internet, books, and magazines. Focal points include:

  • Species name
  • Geographic location (maps make good visuals)
  • Number of individuals left in the wild
  • Habitat and diet information
  • Threats to this species and its environment
  • Why is this species important/interesting/worth saving?

Conservation efforts that are helping to protect this species in the wild (are these animals being captivity bred in zoos?)

Students will then determine a course of action to help save their species and develop an advertising campaign to gain support for their cause. Strategies might include:

Campaign Presentations

Campaigns will be shared with the class in the form of a poster and persuasive verbal presentation.

Students will organize their research on posters with photos, drawings, maps, and other related graphics.

Remind students that effective advertising captures attention, and unique approaches are encouraged when it comes to presenting a species' plight. Humor is a great tactic to engage an audience, and shocking or sad stories elicit people's emotions.

The goal of each group's campaign is to persuade their audience (the class) to care about a particular species and motivate them to climb aboard the conservation effort.

After all of the campaigns have been presented, consider holding a class vote to determine which presentation was the most persuasive.