National Geographic

Big Cats Initiative Sister School Program

2016–2017 School Year

Picture of a student from Loibor Siret Primary School in Tanzania working on a new classroom mural

Photograph by African People and Wildlife Fund and Deirdre Leowinata

Connect Your Classroom

Populations of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other top felines are declining at an alarming rate. They are victims of habitat loss and degradation as well as conflicts with humans. National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative supports on-the-ground conservation and education projects combined with our Cause an Uproar global public awareness campaign. Join in to introduce your students to big cats, global pen-pals, and to build school spirit around stewardship.

The National Geographic Big Cats Initiative Sister School Program (BCISSP) is an interactive, community service learning opportunity that connects students in the U.S. and abroad with students living near big cat populations in Africa. Funds raised from the service learning activities will purchase much-needed school supplies for sister schools in Africa, while raising awareness globally. Learn how to get your school involved below. All schools are welcome!

School Perks

  • Access to free National Geographic resources such as presentations and films
  • Meet big cats experts and explorers
  • Participate in a Google Hangout to hear from experts about their field work
  • Connect your students to global pen pals
  • Implement a service-learning project that can bolster school spirit

Getting Started

The BCISSP is designed to be flexible to your school’s needs. The only requirement is to activate a service learning activity as your students learn about big cats. You can choose to implement a year-long program or participate for a shorter period of time. National Geographic will stay in touch with your school through email updates that outline goals, ideas, and big cats learning opportunities.

To help you plan a program, the full description is outlined in three key phases, including a suggested timeline.

Phase 1: Learn About & Launch the BCISSP — Sign up, review materials and get your students excited.

Phase 2: Integrate Free Resources and Activities — Use our lesson plans and initiate a service learning activity in your classroom.

Phase 3: Assess the BCISSP Activities and Reflect on the Experience — Submit any raised funds, share what worked, and and celebrate with a Roar Off!


Phase 1: Learn and Launch

Suggested timing: November

Before launching BCISSP, review the activities, videos, presentations, and other resources featured in the free toolkit.

Educator Toolkit

School Assembly

Hold a school assembly to get your students excited about big cats. Use any of the PowerPoint templates, videos, and other media for the assembly from the toolkit.

Learn about Sister Schools in Africa and National Geographic Big Cats Experts

Learn about Laly Lichtenfeld, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Anne Kent Taylor, Shivani Bhalla, and Amy Dickman and the schools they work with in Africa. Your students can compare their everyday routines to the students in Africa as they start their service learning projects. All funds from the service learning projects will go to the sister schools in Africa.

Meet the Experts

Phase 2: Integrate and Implement

Suggested timing: November–February

Integrate Big Cats Lesson Plans into Your Classroom

Explore free online National Geographic lesson plans about big cats. This collection of selected videos, activities, and case studies gives students a clear view of the biology of and threats to big cats and their significance in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Engage in Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD

Premieres February 2017

Big Cat Week is Nat Geo WILD’s annual programming event that features stunning images, never-before-seen footage, and powerfully resonant stories of these majestic and endangered felines.

Visit Your Local Zoo to Observe Big Cats

Organize a field trip to the zoo to see big cats live and in person. Many zoos will organize special tours with conservationists for school groups.

Deck the Halls with Paws and Big Cats Posters

Download our Big Cats Paw design and posters in the toolkit, ask each of your students to write their favorite fact about big cats on a paw to display in the hallway. Students can choose to decorate their paw for the holiday season. Find big cats facts here.

Plan a Service-Learning Activity

Service learning is a key component of the Big Cats Initiative. As a participating sister school, conduct a minimum of one service learning project with your students. The project can be year-long or shorter. All proceeds from the service learning activity will go to the sister schools in Africa to purchase much needed school supplies. Find suggestions for service learning activities here.

Phase 3: Assess and Reflect

Suggested timing: March–May

Wrap-up Service Learning Activity

Complete your service learning activity. Funds that your school raised to support sister schools in Africa will be used to purchase classroom supplies. Go to the donation page to submit the funds your school raised to BCISSP.

Donate Funds

ROAR-OFF Finale Assembly

How loud can your school roar? We host an annual final “roar heard around the world” via Google+ Hangout for all sister schools nationwide. All Big Cats Experts will join from the field. We will contact you via email when this has been scheduled. Your school can join live or watch the recording via YouTube at any time after the event.