The best antidote to animal extinction might just be teaching the next generation of kids the importance of wildlife conservation, and World Wildlife Day in March is a perfect time to introduce the concept to your primary students. But with everything else on your long list of topics to cover in the classroom, this is a lesson plan that may have just crept up on you.
With teachers around the world getting ready to educate their students about the dangers that threaten the survival of many animals around the world, the teachers on the Teach Starter team have put together this how-to guide to get your lesson plans ready! Find out how to explain wildlife conservation to kids, why it’s so important and what kids can do to help endangered animals, and explore a few of our favourite activities for marking World Wildlife Day.
Short on time? Go straight to our printable World Wildlife Day resources for your classroom.
What Is Wildlife Conservation?
Wildlife conservation can seem like an impossible challenge for young kids — after all, they’re not exactly suited for heading out into the rainforest to help save endangered animals or take down poachers.
The best way to help your students understand what wildlife conservation is comes down to breaking it down into more local concepts that feel more tangible. For example, you might tell your students that wildlife conservation is like taking care of a giant garden that’s filled with many different types of plants and animals. Just as you need to take care of your class garden or the garden at home by watering and pulling out the weeds, we need to care for the animals and plants in the world by ensuring they have enough food and safe places to live.
Why Is Wildlife Conservation Important?
Continuing on that big garden metaphor, explaining why wildlife conservation is important can focus on the special and unique jobs each wild animal and plant has to do in the big garden that is our world. When just one goes missing, it can affect the entire garden.
For example, if bees were to go extinct, the flowers wouldn’t get pollinated and might not produce fruit. If there were no predators, like lions, the animals they hunt might overpopulate and eat all the food.
By taking care of each animal and plant, that big garden stays healthy and happy.
World Wildlife Day Activities for Kids
Introduce Students to Endangered Animals Near and Far
There are a shocking 40,084 species in the world that are considered threatened by extinction — according to data from the World Animal Foundation — and focusing on their status is a good way to drive home the importance of wildlife conservation with your students.
Start by defining what it means to be an endangered animal, and why it is that different animals are inching toward extinction. Use as many specific examples of animals as you can to help students understand that just as they have favourite toys they would like to keep safe, we should be working to keep these special animals safe too.
You can get started by talking about the endangered wildlife right here in Australia with some of these examples:
Some details to touch on with your students about each animal include:
- their level of endangerment
- where they are from
- how many are left
- why each animal is at risk of becoming extinct
This is a fantastic video to watch with your students as it goes through what the word ‘endangered’ means with real-life examples of what kids can do to help.
Teach Starter Teacher Tip: After choosing an animal to focus on, your students can complete an Animal Fact File about that particular animal. Students could even brainstorm and create a poster to explain to their class about the risks and impacts humans have on that particular endangered animal’s habitat.
Take Kids on a Habitat Hunt
Understanding the different types of habitats that animals like to call home in your own town can help make wildlife conservation seem more real to students. Consider taking your class out of doors for a lesson to see where animals are living around your school so they can understand what would happen if those habitats were to be taken away.
Students can be nature detectives for this lesson, jotting down observations they make about the different habitats they spot. When you return to the classroom, lead a class discussion in the ways those different habitats play a role in the larger ecosystem.
Explore a whole collection of curriculum-aligned habitat worksheets!
Focus on Food Chains and Food Webs
Where would the world be without food for all who live on our planet? Bring food chains and food webs into your wildlife conservation lessons with a focus on the sustenance that animals need to stay alive!
To make this concept real for students, create a circle of kids on the floor of your classroom, and cut lengths of string or yarn to create a classroom food web. Assign each student a type of animal — to do this one member of our teacher team likes to write the names of different types of animals on pieces of paper along with what it is that eats them, fold them, and drop them in a bucket for students to choose out of.
One by one, go around the circle and have students announce what type of animal they are and what eats them. As each student reads off what they are and what they eat, use the string or yarn to connect the animal to the animal that eats them!
Download a free producer, consumer, decomposer poster for your classroom!
Challenge Students to Make a Difference for Wildlife
They may be little, but the kids in your class can make a difference when it comes to wildlife conservation. Why not lead a class brainstorm on all of the things that they can do to help wildlife?
- Kids can help wildlife by learning about endangered animals and what is causing them to become endangered in your classroom, then spreading the word to family and friends.
- Kids can also help by being careful about the things they buy and use. For example, some products are made from parts of endangered animals, like ivory from elephants.
Teach Starter Teacher tip: Students can complete the Wildlife Hero Pledge Worksheet with their pledge of what they are going to do to try and combat habitat destruction and help endangered animals.
Wildlife Dress-Up Day
Use World Wildlife Day as a chance to have a class dress-up day that makes the concept of wildlife preservation more personal. Assign students an endangered animal to create a report about — these task cards have 64 different endangered species for students to choose from — and plan for students to present their reports to the class on 3 March to mark the special event.
As part of their presentations, students can come dressed as their favourite endangered animal.You may like to use any of these animal mask templates to make it easy for students to show off their animal pride:
Educate on Extinction
In order for students to understand what it means to be endangered, they need to understand the stakes: Extinction. When animals become extinct, it’s often because people have destroyed their homes or hunted them for food or other reasons.
Learning what it means for an animal to become extinct can help kid better understand how their actions, and the actions of others, can have a big impact on the world around them — an important part of not just scientific learning but social and emotional learning too.