Students research and discover human and environmental drivers of mass extinction and develop an understanding of trophic cascades and how the loss of one species has an effect on other species and biomes. Then, in teams, they select an endangered species on which to focus their conservation efforts and identify factors influencing the species' endangerment, considering steps necessary to prevent extinction.

 

Students look at ways eco-artists actively advocate for the Earth and its inhabitants and apply the strategies to their own work as planetary stewards. Teams create a three-panel conservation pamphlet that showcases their endangered animal, including infographics or images providing further information,  three to four concrete steps people can take to help save this animal from extinction, and information about organizations dedicated to species survival. Finally, student teams look for ways to spread the message beyond their classroom, such as carrying out their conservation action plans within their own community, educating and engaging with other local actors, dividing responsibilities, and urging action on behalf of a vulnerable regional species with the help of knowledgeable and influential sponsors such as zoos, aquariums, and nonprofits.

 

Use this unit at a glance to explore a brief outline of the materials included in this resource.

 

Use this pedagogical support to inform your teaching of this project-based learning unit.

 

Unit Driving Question: How can we, as planetary stewards, take an active role in saving species from extinction?

 

2 hrs 55 mins

Students collaboratively investigate our planet’s five mass extinctions and the possibility of a sixth mass extinction. Then, students explore the Anthropocene Epoch’s cultural and environmental complexities and impacts before selecting a biome and endangered species that exist within it to be the focus of their research throughout the rest of the unit. They predict how human activity has impacted these biomes and species. This lesson is part of the Engaging in the Fight Against Extinction unit.

3 hrs 45 mins

Students explore drivers of extinction across Earth’s major biomes, including human-to environment interactions that threaten biodiversity, and seek solutions to mitigate habitat loss and prevent extinction. As a result, they develop research-based action steps critical to protecting a certain species and incorporate key findings into their culminating conservation pamphlets. This lesson is part of the Engaging in the Fight Against Extinction unit.

2 hrs 30 mins

Students explore the varying roles people can play to save endangered species. Students create an eco-artist social media profile sharing information about artists who encourage conservation through their work. This lesson is part of the Engaging in the Fight Against Extinction unit.

Anthropocene
Noun

period of time during which human activities have impacted the environment enough to constitute a distinct geological change.

apex predator
Noun

species at the top of the food chain, with no predators of its own. Also called an alpha predator or top predator.

aquatic
Adjective

having to do with water.

Noun

all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

Noun

area of the planet which can be classified according to the plant and animal life in it.

bottom-up trophic cascade
Noun

ecological phenomenon in which a producer or primary consumer is removed from the environment.

chain reaction
Noun

series of events where the previous event causes the next event.

citizen
Noun

member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.

climate
Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

Noun

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

conservation ecology
Noun

study of Earth's biodiversity, with the goal of protecting species, habitats, and ecosystems. Also called conservation biology.

consumer
Noun

organism on the food chain that depends on autotrophs (producers) or other consumers for food, nutrition, and energy.

decomposer
Noun

organism that breaks down dead organic material.

Noun

area of land that receives no more than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of precipitation a year.

driver
Noun

any natural or human-induced factor that directly or indirectly sets a change to an ecosystem in motion.

Noun

branch of biology that studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Noun

organism threatened with extinction.

epoch
Noun

particular period of time in history marked by an event that begins a new period.

extinct
Adjective

no longer existing.

Noun

process of complete disappearance of a species from Earth.

Noun

group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, and from prey, predators, scavengers, and decomposers.

forest
Noun

ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

grassland
Noun

ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.

Green World Hypothesis
Noun

idea that the number of herbivores must be controlled by both the bottom up and the top down for producers, plant life, to survive.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

Holocene
Noun

having to do with the present geological time period. The Holocene Epoch began at the end of the last glacial period, about 10,000 years ago.

Noun

organism that has a major influence on the way its ecosystem works.

mass extinction
Noun

extinction event in which a large number of species go extinct in a relatively short period of time.

natural disaster
Noun

an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

Permian
Adjective

last geologic period of the Paleozoic Era.

predator
Noun

animal that hunts other animals for food.

prey
Noun

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

producer
Noun

organism on the food chain that can produce its own energy and nutrients. Also called an autotroph.

public policy
Noun

course of actions, beliefs, and laws taken by a government having to do with a specific issue or concern.

Noun

organism that eats dead or rotting biomass, such as animal flesh or plant material.

Noun

group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.

stewardship
Noun

responsible management to ensure benefits are passed on to future generations.

top-down trophic cascade
Noun

ecological phenomenon in which a top predator is removed from the environment.

trophic cascade
Noun

ecological phenomenon triggered by the addition or removal of predators from an environment.

tundra
Noun

cold, treeless region in Arctic and Antarctic climates.