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Endangered Species
Thrive (In Cyberspace)

While many animal and plant species are in short supply, there is no shortage of Web sites that teachers and students can use to explore this popular classroom topic. This week, Education World explores some of the most valuable "endangered species" sites for teachers and students. Also included, endangered species activities and online projects for students of all ages!

Endangered Species GIF On December 28, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973, a law in which the United States "pledged itself, as a sovereign state in the international community, to conserve to the extent practicable the various species of fish or wildlife and plants facing extinction."

Why was the law necessary? What did it mandate? How was it implemented? And how are "endangered species" doing today? Grab your mouse and your pith helmet -- and join Education World on a cyberspace search for endangered species!


The subject is vast, and facts and figures are constantly changing. In order to ensure that the information you present to your students is current and correct, we travel first to the online domains of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the government agencies charged with administering the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If you only have time for one stop on our cyber search, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Home Page is the place to go.

This comprehensive research and teaching resource provides an abundance of information about the ESA and related programs and projects -- and provides you with the tools to teach it. Here, you can click Species Lists and follow the taxonomic links to learn about the status of a particular animal or click State Lists to learn about threatened and endangered species in a particular area. At this site, you can also study the history of the ESA, read about current environmental issues, and obtain overviews of government programs to save endangered species and habitats

If you do nothing else here, be sure to click Teacher's Packet and make use of the variety of valuable information and activities provided. This packet includes fact sheets on a number of endangered species, important definitions, suggested teaching themes and classroom activities, a slide show on endangered animals, activities and lesson plans about endangered plants, crossword puzzles, a word search, a coloring book, a down-loadable teachers' guide, and much more.Also included is an extensive list of links to environmental sites. You'll particularly want to check out the Investigating Endangered Species in the Classroom: Lesson Plans from the University of Michigan for access to a number of valuable classroom activities.

And whatever you do, don't miss the Biodiversity Symbol designed by a 1-3 multi-aged classroom in Cincinnati, Ohio!

Supplement your visit to the Fish and Wildlife Service with another to the Marine Fisheries site. Here, you can browse a sea of articles and reports on current environmental issues, visit the Office of Protected Resources to find out about the status of marine fish and mammals, and explore the Office of Habitat Conservation to learn about programs to conserve marine habitats. Or, if you're looking for information about a particular topic and haven't found it yet, type key words into the site's search engine to gain access to online reports and publications about almost any subject.

If you can only manage a single additional visit, make it the National Wildlife Federation Endangered Species and Habitats Web site. Here you'll find a clear explanation of the ESA and its importance, information about programs concerned with the conservation of specific species and habitats, links to information about current legislative and administrative actions, and a list of additional useful links. (While you're there, check out their Fun Things for Kids! pages, discussed in the Sites for Students section of this article.)

A number of other agencies and organizations maintain online sites containing information on endangered species. Sites provided by The National Park Service, the World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy are all worth a side trip, if you have the time.


Now that you've collected enough background information and resources for a unit on endangered species, it's time to share the highlights of your explorations with your students.

Encourage students to start their explorations at the Endangered Species Learning Center (from Defenders of Wildlife). This site provides information about biodiversity and endangered species in clear, easy-to-understand terms. The site also includes clickable pictures of 21 endangered animals. Students click a picture to learn more about the animal and its habitat.

Students in grades 9-12 will be captivated by the graphics and format at Bagheera: A Website for Our Endangered Species. This gorgeous site, which provides information about endangered species and encourages students to act to save them, was designed as series of stand-alone modules that combine to create a cohesive unit. The modules include classroom activities, information about endangered species, suggested resources, and news items in a form and format that older students will find appealing. This is, however, a commercial site and, particularly in some of the later modules, visitors will have to navigate ads for books and music to get to the information.

Some additional sites for kids primarily provide information about several specific species. One example is Species at Risk. Students also will enjoy Understanding Wildlife Conservation.


Now you've completed your cyber search and explored the issue of endangered species ad infinitum, but your students are still fired up and anxious to show off what they've learned. You might want to give them the opportunity to participate in an online project.

The Endangered Species and Nature of the World (TESAN) is an international project hosted jointly by a teacher from the United States and a teacher from the Netherlands. At this site, students are asked to choose an endangered species or a Nature Park from their own region to research and report on. The project is open to K-12 classrooms anywhere in the world.


According to figures provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service, 355 animals and 567 plants in the United States are endangered and 120 animals and 135 plants are threatened. While the numbers of those species are in short supply, there is no shortage of Web sites devoted to saving them. This article has focused on only a few of the more general sites. For specific information on individual species, follow the links -- or invite your students to join you on your own cyber search.




Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © Education World


Updated 08/14/2012