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Endangered Species - Since life began on this planet, many species have come and gone -- rendered extinct by naturally changing physical and biological conditions. If extinction is part of the natural order, and if many other species remain, some people may ask: "Why save endangered species? What makes these animals and plants so special that money and effort should be spent to conserve them?"
Congress addressed these questions in the preamble to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, recognizing that endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants "are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and of scientific value to the nation and its people."
As your students begin researching endangered species they will soon discover that the accelerating decline of our wild animals and plants is less and less natural. Biologists know that today's danger to wildlife is most often the result of habitat destruction, environmental pollution, the introduction of exotic (non-native) organisms, and exploitation -- all generally as a direct result of human activities.
Although conservation efforts have begun in recent years, mankind is still exterminating entire species at an ever-increasing rate. Since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, more than 500 species, subspecies, and varieties or our Nation's plants and animals have become extinct--- lost forever. By contrast, during the 3,000 years of the Pleistocene Ice Age, all of North America lost only about 3 species every 100 years. This situation today is even worse in other parts of the world.
(Information from U.S Department of the Interior)
Introduction Activity -- Buy a roll of yellow "Caution- Under Contruction" tape at your local hardware store. Before students come to class use this tape to divide-off about one third of your classroom and student seating area. In the taped-off area post a large sign -- "Construction Zone - Future site of New Shopping Mall". As students come into class have them sit in the crowded seating area that remains and discuss what happens when land is taken over for development purposes. Your discussion should focus on the lose of home, food and water sources, crowding, loss of personal space. Ask students how they felt when they could not use or sit in that part of their room. Ask students to make comparisons with the fate of some endangered species. During the discussion you might move the tape again - saying that more room is needed now for a parking lot. Be ready for resistance and complaints. When animals come into residential areas we often kill or trap them. They are pushed back into an ever shrinking wilderness areas.
After this introduction activity, assign or radomly draw state names from a hat. Show students where to find this activity on the score science sight and begin their investigation. There are many sites on the Internet dedicated to endangered animal species. Some have been included in the resource section of this activity but it would be a good idea to post the net address of other good sites in your classroom as you or your students find them.
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