Endangered Species in Primary Schools: (No, We Don't Mean Teachers)

By Jones, Emily | Environmental Education, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Endangered Species in Primary Schools: (No, We Don't Mean Teachers)


Jones, Emily, Environmental Education


"Biodiversity? A kind of washing U powder?" This was the most common answer in a recent m public survey (of adults) according to the BBC. Of course biodiversity, ecosystems, nature, life on earth, whatever you call it, is essential to human existence and preserving it a basic need. Therefore children's understanding of endangered species and the concept of extinction and how they can help should be a key part of the science curriculum.

Teachers are now realising the importance and potential of learning about endangered species and how it can link into other parts of the curriculum, not just one bullet point in the science curriculum. However, in our experience, educators are often short of suitable resources, especially those that children can identify with. As a UK-based conservation organisation, People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been approached asking for such information and in response we have produced high-quality resources to be used in the classroom.

PTES is unique in that, as well as supporting conservation efforts around the world, it has a special focus on endangered species in our own back gardens and local green spaces--including school grounds. Our public surveys such as Living with Mammals, Great Stag Hunt, Hogwatch and Great Nut Hunt collate records from all over the country to help find out what is living where and how many there are from year to year. These have useful, practical outcomes and help us focus our conservation projects and research to where it is needed most. For example our Mammals on Roads survey showed a serious decline in hedgehog numbers, as was also shown in other national surveys, and has led us to fund numerous projects to raise awareness and find out the causes for this worrying trend. Practical projects run by PTES in this country also include those that protect whole habitats such as hedgerows and ancient orchards, and in the fact the charity owns two reserves that are managed for wildlife. We share our knowledge through publications, public events, and, most recently, educational resources for children. The various expertise gained by PTES and partner organisations, over its 33-year history of working to help endangered species, has helped to create various educational resources.

The study of endangered species can link into nearly every section of the Sc2 'Life processes and living things' programme of study and associated scientific enquiry and ICT opportunities within the KS1 and 2 National Curriculum. Such a broad topic can seem quite daunting and, when taking on teaching 'endangered species', many people immediately focus on high-profile mammals such as tigers, pandas and polar bears. As great as it is for children to learn about exotic cute creatures such as these, there are many case studies here in the UK that can be just as thrilling and worthy--and far more accessible. Our curriculum-linked resources focus on British endangered and threatened animals and their habitats. Two such resource packs recently developed focus on small mammals, such as the dormouse, bank vole and red squirrel, and the greater stag beetle. The popularity of these have shown that children are just as fascinated by a small unusual creature they have never heard of, especially when they find out they may have a chance of seeing one in the wild somewhere in their local area.

Over 200 schools and groups have registered to access the resources via our education web pages in the last 6 months and feedback has been very positive. Here are a couple of inspirational case studies that have made full use of our resources and expanded further:

* Children at Herries School in Cookham Dean, Berkshire became engrossed by beetles and even had their experiments included in a PhD thesis, after taking part in our stag beetle activities. …

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