K–12 curriculum: Using animals to teach global conservation

Published on: 
22 Jan 2019
Kristen Keim

Exploring the animal kingdom is a great strategy for engaging students and developing a connection to what they’re learning.

The Wild Classroom curriculum from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) explores global environmental issues for a better future by building off the inherent concern for animals that humans possess. Each lesson in the curriculum teaches students an essential conservation concept through a fun and captivating activity linked to a particular wild animal.

WWF joined the Learning Lab Partner network in 2018, and its “Tiger Toolkit” is now available as part of the annual subscription. Tiger Toolkit has six lessons for grades 3–5, with additional activities in the Educator’s Resource Guide. More lessons from the program will be added to the Learning Lab platform throughout the year.

Kate Walker, with the WWF education team, shares how the Wild Classroom curriculum is so impactful to students:

Why is it important for students to explore and understand the world around them?

By developing a student’s understanding of the needs and challenges of the world, they can begin to know their role and become advocates for a better future. We can help our kids become informed, conscious decision-makers as adults by fostering their curiosity and instilling a love for nature.

In their lifetime, environmental issues such as freshwater availability and climate change could have catastrophic effects on communities. There’s no time to waste in teaching our kids to ask questions and take action. It is one of the best chances our planet has of coming back from the brink.

How does the Wild Classroom curriculum connect students to their learning?

The lessons within Wild Classroom use animals to grab the students’ attention and introduce them to larger global concepts. The curriculum makes it easy for students to grasp and relate to larger environmental issues by taking a species they are familiar with and connecting the threats it faces to actions humans are taking.

By understanding these connections, students can better understand the cause-and-effect relationship we have with our planet. Wild Classroom curriculum develops social and emotional skills within students, as well as activating a sense of empowerment to help students understand how their actions can make a difference.

If you could suggest only one lesson to teachers, which would it be?

That’s tough! Depending on the type of lesson you’re looking for, I’d have to say either "The Missing Piece" or "Deforestation Musical Chairs." "The Missing Piece" is a hands-on engineering challenge that really allows students to be creative while using critical thinking skills and understanding the impact predators like tigers have on their ecosystem.

I also like "Deforestation Musical Chairs" because it’s such an easy way for teachers to take a familiar activity and relate it to conservation. Students can easily make that connection between the livelihood of tigers and the forest habitats they depend on.

Explore World Wildlife Fund’s Wild Classroom Curriculum