At the current rate of extinction, a child born today will have seen nearly a half million species of plants and animals disappear from the world by the time she’s 18 years old. Statistics like these from Think Quest are chilling. Since 1996, it’s been calculated that around 3,000 animals become extinct each year, and almost 11,000 are currently on the endangered list. Wildlife conservation is a much more pressing cause than many people realize. Tomorrow’s diversity depends on teaching today’s children to conserve wildlife and value the animal kingdom.
Teaching Resources and Projects
You don’t have to be a biologist to instill a love for animals in your children. Awareness of conservation begins when kids are young, and playtime is an ideal opportunity for teaching. Gabrioloa Rescue of Wildlife Society suggests the following activities to increase a child’s appreciation of the natural world:
- Go on a bug walk. Look for cocoons, turn over rocks and sift through piles of leaves to find different species.
- Observe your own footprints outdoors and join your child in a hunt for tracks left by other animals.
- Take photos of different animal species in your own neighborhood, and try to identify them.
- Set out bird feeders in the yard and birdwatch with your children.
- Plant flowers and trees that will attract wildlife into your environment.
Another idea is to visit online sites like Teaching Ideas to find the same kinds of resources teachers use in their classrooms.
If your child has a special affection for a specific animal, use that as a jumping-off point to teach a conservation lesson. Encouraging children to develop a relationship with a specific animal (even if only through books) may nurture a love for wildlife as a whole. For example, visit a website like the African Wildlife Foundation to learn all about mountain gorillas if your child is fascinated with that species. With younger or more sensitive children, you don’t have to focus on the negative — finding out only 900 mountain gorillas still exist in the whole world may be too overwhelming or disturbing for some kids. Instead, approach learning from a positive perspective. Show your child maps of the region where mountain gorillas live, make art projects or write stories starring the species. Understanding how pollution, land management and human overcrowding affects a species helps kids begin to see the bigger picture of earth stewardship. The more dialogue you can have with your kids about wildlife conservation, the more opportunities there are for them to appreciate the importance of a diverse ecology.
Ways to Help
Depending on the child’s age and level of understanding, there are many ways to get involved with the cause of wildlife conservation:
- Donate a portion of the child’s allowance to a reputable conservation group.
- As a family, raise money for donation through yard or bake sales.
- Get involved with education programs sponsored by your local zoo or other wildlife advocacy groups.
- Watch television programs and films on endangered species that stress the importance of conservation.
- Adopt a pet. Caring for any kind of animal will help kids understand the value of caring for all animals.