Classroom Ideas

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Suggestions for Incorporating Radio Expeditions Into Lessons

    Play radio clips that are particularly descriptive of the landscape, and ask students to close their eyes and imagine what they would see if they could “jump into” the radio program. (If your students are too young to pay attention to an entire broadcast, try using snippets.) They should also try to imagine the smells, sensations, and moods associated with the place being described. Have them illustrate or write descriptive paragraphs about what has been described on the radio.

    Have students present reports in the form of a radio program or interview, in a style similar to that of Radio Expeditions. This will give them a chance to incorporate the radio format into their own work and to practice expressing their ideas to a listening audience.

Suggestions for Teaching Biodiversity

    For all the activities below we encourage you to incorporate clips from the Radio Expeditions programs.

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Kindergarten Through Fourth Grade

Illustrating Interdependence Through Role-Playing

    Have students list animals they see near their school or homes. Then hold a class discussion, asking students to consider the following questions: What do the animals eat? Where do they live? How do they depend on the plants around them? What would happen if one important type of plant no longer existed?

    Assign each student the role of a local plant or animal (more than one student can play the same role). Ask everyone to stand up on one side of the classroom. Then ask one “plant” or “animal” to step out of the picture. For example, you could say, “Will all the oak trees please sit down.” (The children taking their seats would represent the oak trees in your area dying.) Then ask the students if any other species depend on the oak tree. If so, those species (e.g., the squirrel) will have to sit as well. Continue until there are no (or very few) students left standing. Discuss the implications of the simulation with the class.

Illustrating Endangerment

    Have students draw pictures of endangered animals, their food sources, and their habitats. Discuss the consequences of removing a food source or habitat feature. Talk also about what it means for a species to be endangered, as opposed to threatened. (Endangered species are in immediate danger of extinction, while threatened species are declining in number and might become endangered if nothing is done to help them.)

    If you are in the United States, have your students go to the state lists of endangered species at to find out what endangered species exist in their state.

Cyber Sleuthing

    Have students visit Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo’s Web site at and find an endangered animal to study. Ask them to find out what it eats and the type of habitat where it lives. Then ask each student to draw a picture of the animal and its food sources in its natural habitat.

    Ask students to explain how this animal depends on the other things in the picture. What would happen to the animal if one of the items in the picture (such as a food source or habitat feature) were taken away? What does the Lincoln Park Zoo Web site say are the reasons for this species being endangered?

Awareness Begins at Home

    Ask students to make lists and/or draw pictures of the plant and animal products that they use on a regular basis—in the form of clothing or other personal belongings. Have them think about how they depend on plants and animals. Does any of their clothing or belongings come from a species-rich area such as the rain forest? Are there products that they didn’t even know come from animals or plants? What would happen if some of these animals or plants disappeared from the Earth?

A Virtual Visit to the Rainforest Action Network

    Have older students go to the Rainforest Action Network Kids’ Corner at Ask them to read the information at the links on this page—make sure they look at the Kids’ Art Gallery—to learn why it’s important to preserve biodiversity in the tropical rain forest (and elsewhere). Then ask them to take one of the topics they’ve read about and illustrate it, including a caption describing what they’ve drawn. Place the artwork around the classroom under the heading “Biodiversity in the Tropical Rain Forest.”

Battle for the Planet

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Grades Five Through Eight

Drawing a “Dependency Diagram”

    Ask students to get into small groups or pairs, list the plants and animals in their local area, and draw a “dependency diagram” illustrating the connections of dependency between the species they’ve listed. (Preliminary research at a nature center or library is recommended.) They should begin by drawing and labeling the plants and animals on their lists. They should then draw lines of different colors between the species to illustrate connections. One color can represent links in the food chain. Another might represent connections based on habitat—such as an owl that lives in a particular type of tree.

    When students have completed their diagrams, ask each group to choose one particularly interesting or important species. Have them write a paragraph explaining what might happen if that species were to disappear. How would the ecosystem be affected?

Conduct a Biodiversity Survey and Devise an Education Plan

    Have students get into small groups and write and conduct their own survey on endangered species to determine how much their fellow students, family members, and other teachers and friends know about biodiversity and endangered species. Their questions should be based on what they know about biodiversity, including information they’ve learned from the Radio Expeditions programs and any of the Web sites listed below.

    Each group’s survey should contain no more than six questions. Each group should make a chart that lists the question numbers across the top row and the respondents down the left-hand column. (Students don’t have to record the respondents’ names, but they should indicate in the left-hand column whether the respondent is a kid or an adult.) Have each student conduct the survey and place a check in the appropriate box each time a person answers a question correctly.

    After each student has surveyed at least five people, have your pupils get back into their groups and calculate the average number of questions that each respondent got right. Is there a significant difference in responses between kids and adults? Which questions were the most difficult for the respondents? Do they think there may be anything in the way they worded their questions that made them difficult for people, or was it a fair survey? After the groups have analyzed their results, ask them to prepare a report that recommends a plan for providing additional biodiversity education for kids and adults.

    Here are some Web sites your students can use as a resource for writing their survey questions:

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Grades Nine Through Twelve

The Great Biodiversity Debate

    Define biodiversity and ask students as a class or in small groups to brainstorm the benefits of biodiversity and list them. Explain that, while many arguments for preserving biodiversity concern the ways in which people can use the world’s plant and animal species, some arguments state that biodiversity is important simply because it makes the world an interesting and beautiful place. Some people argue that biodiversity should be preserved because plants and animals have as much of a right to exist as do humans.

    Ask the students to debate these differing arguments. How many items on their list concern the ways in which people can directly benefit from biodiversity? How many concern biodiversity for its own sake? What do your students think is the most compelling argument for preserving biodiversity? Which argument do they think would be the most persuasive today? Why?

    Have students visit the following Web sites to gather more information on the benefits of biodiversity. Ask them to look for information that they can use in an opinion paper entitled “Why Biodiversity Should Be Preserved.” In that paper have them state their rationale, based on class discussion and their own research.

    Find out more about the rain forest at these Web sites:

Profiting From Conservation

    Have students prepare a business plan for a nonprofit conservation organization. Ask them to research the ways in which biodiversity is being threatened. (Discuss the concept of nonprofit versus for-profit, if necessary.) Then have them find out about organizations working to preserve biodiversity.

    Visit these Web sites for information on nonprofits:

    Explain to the class that most of the organizations working to preserve biodiversity are nonprofit. Have them get into small groups and imagine that they’re going to start a nonprofit organization to preserve biodiversity. They’ll need to write a mission statement that explains why they’ve chosen to start this particular organization and outlines the organization’s short- and long-term goals. They’ll then write a plan of action for how they’ll raise money and whom they will target in their marketing efforts. They should also state whether any other organizations have the same mission and goals and explain what these organizations are doing. These components will form their nonprofit business plan, which the groups will present in a multimedia or poster presentation.

    For more information on biodiversity, try these Web sites:

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