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.
National Geographic Bee Competitions
The state competition of the National Geographic Bee was held on March 27 in each state and the District of Columbia. Fifty-one state champs as well as champions from the United States Territories and Department of Defense schools will travel to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C. for the national championship on May 11 to 13. View the list of state Bee champions.
The national championship preliminary rounds will take place on Monday, May 11, in Washington, D.C. The national championship final rounds, featuring the top ten finalists and moderated by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, will be held on Wednesday, May 13, at National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. National Geographic Channel will air the final round of the National Geographic Bee Championship at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, May 15, and on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD. It will also air on public television stations; check local television listings for dates and times.
Gain a Global Perspective
The 2014 National Geographic Bee finalists gush about geography.
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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