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Endangered Animals and Science Literacy

Originally appears in the Summer 2012 issue

There are several endangered species that currently serve as the face of conservation. Whether it is the polar bear, orangutan, blue whale, or giant panda, these animals draw attention and public support for conservation measures.1,7 Because these animals are eye catching, the more that people know about them, the more they will want to protect them and their habitat. With more and more animals becoming endangered and extinct, it is important to teach our young students about these amazing animals, why they are becoming endangered, and what they can do to help these animals.

During the lessons below, students are inspired by their reading of a fictional novel to learn more about an endangered animal and what they can do to protect it.  When I implemented the lessons, students used the novel Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, but any book about an endangered animal would work well in this lesson.2,8  Hopefully, you will be able to incorporate the lessons into your classroom, as they have proven very helpful to develop science literacy and increase students’ desire to make changes in their lives to protect endangered animals and our environment.

Throughout these lessons, the students take part in guided and independent research. After gaining interest in endangered animals through reading a novel, students are responsible for choosing their own endangered animal to research independently. Conducting this research independently helps them to be fully involved in their learning and give them a sense of ownership over their work.9 Through this investigation, students are able to learn more about an endangered animal, teach others about the animal, and analyze the actions that can be taken to save and protect the species.10 Each student presents the information they learn about their animal to their classmates, including characteristics about their animal and why it is worth saving. Throughout the lesson, students are actively reading, writing, and speaking about endangered animals, helping them to develop their science literacy skills on this important topic.

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Lindsey Hagen is a teacher in Cicero, Illinois who is currently pursuing her Master’s of Arts in Zoology. She tries to inspire her junior high students to care about the environment through using inquiry and discovery education. She can be reached at