Stories about threatened and endangered animals are quite common these days. We read in the news that species go extinct every year and learn from documentaries how species extinction is largely the result of human activities. As adults, we are familiar with the importance of biodiversity, how urbanization, poaching, and climate change have led to species decline, and the collective responsibility we have to help endangered animals, but how do we teach these important lessons to our kids?
Children are naturally curious about their environment and are especially interested in animals. Has your child ever asked you why there are no more dinosaurs or why there aren’t more wild animals in your neighborhood? When our kids ask us questions about animals, take the opportunity to teach them about endangered animals. Regardless of their age or interests, there are many fun activities focused on teaching children about endangered animals - and who knows, you may learn a new thing or two yourself.
Depending on your child’s age and interests, there are many fun activities to help teach your children about endangered species. From field trips to conservation areas, visits to the local library, or arts and crafts projects, there is sure to be something that engages your child.
Visit your local outdoor education centre, zoo, or conservation area
Many cities have outdoor education centres which feature interactive displays on endangered animals. Before you go, take a look at their scheduled programs to see if they offer an activity on local endangered species. Zoos also have a wealth of information about endangered animals. As your child watches different animals sleep, eat, and play, you can teach them about the animal - don’t worry, you won’t need to do any research as most zoos have this information displayed. If you feel like going on an adventure outside of the city, visit one of your local conservation areas. Conservation areas are areas of land that are protected because of the important habitat it provides. Most conservation areas have hiking trails and interpretative signs sharing details on what species live in the area, whether the animals are threatened or endangered, and what you can do to help. Some conservation areas offer guided hikes with Conservation Officers who can answer all of your questions.
Volunteer with endangered animal programs
If there are opportunities to become involved with your local conservation area or outdoor education centre, consider volunteering with your child. Participating in programs aimed towards protecting the natural environment and helping endangered animals will give your child a sense of pride and accomplishment in the time that they have given. Some of the organizations that have great kids’ wildlife conservation programs are Earth Rangers (www.earthrangers.org) and The National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org).
Become an endangered species detective
Play detective with your child to learn about different endangered animals. Ask your child to pick an animal which they would like to learn about and either using the internet or visiting your local library, encourage your child to become an endangered species detective. Ask your child to learn if the species is threatened or endangered, why the species is in trouble, and how we can help - they may even come up with an action or two on what they can do as kids to help the animal. Don’t worry, if you need help learning which species are endangered, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) maintains a thorough of endangered species (Learn more).
Arts and Crafts
If your child likes arts and crafts projects, there are many tutorials on making animal masks, puppets, and sculptures. If you child prefers to color and draw, the United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a free endangered species coloring book (Learn more). While you make crafts with your child, you can ask them questions about why they think that the animal is in trouble and how people can help.
Watch a kid’s show about endangered animals
Many popular children’s programming includes episodes on endangered animals. A quick online search can help you find a program that your child likes.
“Adopt” a species
If your child really shows interest in helping endangered species consider adopting a species with the World Wildlife Fund (Learn more). This symbolic adoption uses funds raised to protect wild animals and their habitats. If your child receives an allowance this is a great opportunity to teach them about saving and donating their money to a cause they believe in.
Become engaged yourself
Regardless of the activity you choose, it is important as a parent to be engaged and interested in learning about endangered species too. In leading by example and showing your kids that you care about the natural environment and animals, your child will be more likely to follow your lead and develop an interest in endangered animals too.
Make it a family event
When going hiking, biking or any outdoor activities with your family, you can have the whole family wearing matching outfits to make the experience fun and inspirational. Your kids will love mommy and daddy wearing Tee Shirts printed with their favourite endangered animals.
Not only the matching family outfits help kids connect to nature, it also helps them to spend more time outside especially with too much screen time these days.
Next time you are looking for a fun excursion or activity with your child consider one of the ideas above to educate your child about endangered animals. Our children are the next generation responsible for ensuring that biodiversity and diversity of species is maintained. By raising a generation of children that are educated on the importance of protecting our endangered animals, gives us as parents, the hope for the survival of the natural world and biodiversity.
Do you have any ideas that can teach children about Endangered Animals? Please share with us at the comment below.