This activity is part of the Extinction Stinks! unit. 

1. Introduce the importance of storytelling in conservation through a discussion and video.

  • Ask: How do people tell stories?
      • Based on their everyday experiences, students’ responses may include: sharing stories out loud, writing them down or publishing them in books, creating art, or sharing a photo or video on social media.
  • How might storytelling be used as a tool for conservation?
      • Students may respond by considering the ways stories engage people to think from a new point of view, evoke emotions, or draw them in to learn more.
  • Show a short clip of the video Saving the Creeps with Emerging Explorer and zoologist Lucy Cooke [3:41-7:33].
      • Ask: How does Cooke use storytelling to protect the “creeps”?
      • Emphasize how Cooke, the “Amphibian Avenger,” creatively uses social media and humor as important strategies to promote the story of the “ugly” species she works to protect, and how these strategies could help in students’ final projects.
  • Explain that this activity will profile two different people using storytelling to support the conservation of endangered species. This will help students design their conservation strategies for their target species in a way that engages their audience.

2. Explore two methods of storytelling to help endangered species.

  • Introduce one method of storytelling by watching this Photo Ark video of Joel Sartore’s work. 
      • Before watching the video, ask students to pay attention to what feelings arise when watching the video. Afterwards, ask them to share some of their feelings and ideas.
  • After the video and discussion, give students time to explore the Photo Ark gallery on their own or with a partner. Ask students to share new information they learned and describe a species in the Photo Ark. Then, ask them to identify some of the ways the photos drew them in to learn more about the species.
  • Next, watch the Saving the Sumatran Rhino: Behind the Scenes video to learn how National Geographic Explorer Cory Jaskolski is using 3D modeling to help save the Sumatran rhino.
  • Generate a discussion by having students compare and contrast Joel Sartore and Cory Jaskolski’s efforts to use media to tell the stories of species at risk of extinction. Guide students to consider the strengths and weaknesses of each method, and ask them to consider if one approach is more compelling than the other.

3. As the next step in their project work, prompt students to brainstorm storytelling techniques that they will use when communicating about their endangered species.

  • Have students meet with their target species group and brainstorm ways to use storytelling to help promote the conservation of their species. 
  • After brainstorming, prompt groups to share their ideas with the class for feedback and more ideas about how to share the story of their target species. Collect ideas for later reference when students are preparing their final pitches during the Sharing Our Solutions lesson of the Extinction Stinks! unit.

Informal Assessment

Use students’ responses to discussion questions and personal reflections to assess their understanding of the power of storytelling and how it can enhance their final product.

Extending the Learning

Have students create their own art piece that focuses on their target species or a species they care about. They could use drawings, photos, or a catchy slogan to engage the viewer and capture their attention to learn more about the issues facing that species. Encouraging diverse forms of creative expression reinforces that there are many ways to tell stories that help connect people to nature. This could be used as an extension of their work to support their target species or an independent enrichment activity.

Subjects & Disciplines

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Explain the importance of storytelling in motivating action to save endangered species.
  • Evaluate two different storytelling strategies used to promote conservation.
  • Apply storytelling ideas to inject narrative into their strategy for protecting an endangered species.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Discussions
  • Multimedia instruction
  • Visual instruction

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7:  Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.

Next Generation Science Standards

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, 1 computer per learner, Projector, Speakers

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Large-group instruction
  • Small-group work

Background Information

Joel Sartore has used his work as a photographer to capture portraits of many of the world's endangered species. His "Photo Ark" project aims to photograph every species in captivity in the world. Another creative way that individuals have used to capture the essence of species that are too protected or threatened to be practical for the public to encounter firsthand is 3D modeling. By using 3D scans, virtual reality can bring anyone around the world up close and personal with some of the most threatened species, like the Sumatran rhino. Technology can be an excellent way to connect people with species around the world and inspire their protection.



confinement or imprisonment.


management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

digital story

fictional or nonfictional narrative told through the use of media such as photos, maps, video, and audio recordings.


organism threatened with extinction.


process of complete disappearance of a species from Earth.


group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.

Articles & Profiles

Instructional Content