Photograph by Michael Nichols
Cats of all sizes—ranging from playful family pets to powerful tigers in the wild—are among the most familiar of all of Earth’s animals. Fossil evidence suggests that ancestors of today’s cats may date back as much as 30 million years in Europe and 16 million years in the Americas.
Cats living in the wild, especially big cats such as tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, cougars (pumas), and jaguars are increasingly at risk of extinction because of pressure from ever-expanding human populations. Students can help protect these beautiful animals by researching and learning about where and how these animals live and what threats put them at risk.
Conduct an Investigation
Divide the class into six groups and assign each group one of the following types of big cats: tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards, cougars (pumas), or jaguars.
Instruct each group to research the following information about its assigned big cat.
i. Description of the cat
ii. Range/natural habitat
iii. Life cycle/habits
iv. Threats v. Conservation efforts
The following web sites will be helpful:
National Geographic Big Cats Initiative
Look at the lower half of the page and see "More Big Cats." Select the desired animal to see population, range, and other facts.
San Diego Zoo
Under the heading "cats," select the desired species to locate range maps, facts & figures, and general information.
Use the "search" option to locate information on the desired cat species.
Big Cats Online
Select continent; then select desired species.
Present Research Findings
Provide each group with poster board, colored pencils or markers, and a blank map for the range area of its assigned cat. Maps can be downloaded from Expeditions [select the desired continent, customize to “basic”, print as pdf]
Guide students to organize their research findings, including photos and a range map, to present what they have learned about their assigned cat. Remind them to include correct documentation for all sources used.
Extend the Activity
Have students identify other animals that are endangered and learn more about these animals at risk.
Join 11,000 schools and participate in this year’s National Geographic Bee. Get a notification to alert you when registration opens in August.
About the National Geographic Bee
Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The contest is designed to inspire students to be curious about the world. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging competition.
The national championship preliminary rounds will take place on Monday, May 23, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds featuring the top 10 finalists and moderated by humorist, journalist, and actor Mo Rocca will be held on Wednesday, May 25, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
The national champion will receive a $50,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society, and a Lindblad expedition to Southeast Alaska provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic.
Watch the 2016 National Geographic Bee Finals
The National Geographic Bee aired on the National Geographic Channel on Friday May 27, and may still be available via streaming services. It is also airing on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Meet the 2016 Champions
National Geographic Bee contestants aren't just geography geniuses. They're also savvy park planners! See where they would create a National Park in their own state.
How to Help
Donations help fund schools to participate in the National Geographic Bee.
Teachers can use these activities in the classroom to prepare students for the bee!
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