Saturday, October 12, 2013

Resources for Teaching about Extinction

I'm preparing to teach controversial issues in the classroom. As I plan for discussions of geologic time, evolution, extinction, and climate change, I'm sitting on the floor of my office, pulling books from the shelves, papers from the file cabinet (yes, I am "old-school" in some ways!), and searching for web resources on my iPad while thinking about how to put them all together. I thought this might be a good time to share a few excerpts and some of the resources I'll be using in my lessons.

Resources for Teaching about Extinction

written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White

The world's quite a big place,
you know. But it's not that big,
when you consider how much
there is to squeeze into it.

After all, it's home not just to billions of people, but
to the most amazing number of other kinds of living
things, too. And we're all jostling for space.

We humans have changed the world a lot over the
years, to make room for ourselves and to produce the
things we need.  We've turned forests into farmland,
dammed rivers, and built towns and cities to live in.
Some of the other animals and plants that we share
the Earth with have coped with the changes very
well.  But some haven't.

In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here

They're extinct.

Text ©Martin Jenkins. All rights reserved.

written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Christopher Wormell

The 20 poems in this book pay tribute to species that have disappeared since crossing paths with humankind. The book opens with these disturbing words.
More than ninety-nine percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct.
. . .
On Earth, six animal species die every hour, many of the most recent due to climate change, habitat destruction, or human greed, carelessness or indifference.
A timeline runs across the bottom of the pages, with the poems ordered by when a species became extinct. You'll also find its scientific name and where it once lived. The first poem is to the aurochs, a species from which modern cattle descended that died out c. 1627. The last poem is to Miss Waldron's red Colobus monkey, a species that died out in 2000. In between you'll find familiar and unfamiliar animals, like the dodo and the blue buck.
The Arizona Jaguar

Description: Loner; nightfall eyes;
Coat of spots on spots (disguise);
Once the New World's largest cat;
Mountain, grassland habitat;
Fed on any kind of meat;
Stumbled down a one-way street;
Color of a jealous sun.
Status: Nowhere. Future: None.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.
The book concludes with a series of endnotes describing each animal in further detail.

Here's another poem about extinction that is particularly powerful.
The Animals are Leaving
by Charles Harper Webb

One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.

One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.

Read the poem in its entirety.

After watching this, check out this LiveScience article entitled 

Hands-On Activities/Simulations

The Mammoth Extinction Game

Scholastic Lesson Plan - Learning the Causes of Extinction

Web Sites

Scholastic Study Jams - Population Growth

Discovery Science - Top 10 Extinct Species

Animal Planet - Extinct Animals

Oxford University Museum of Natural History - Learning Zone: Extinct and Endangered

Other Books to Keep on Hand

written by Jerry Pallotta and illustrated by Ralph Masiello

written by Sandra and William Markle and illustrated by Felipe Davalos

I hope you found this list helpful. If you have any terrific resources for teaching about extinction, I hope you'll share them.

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