While people can get a small taste for foreign mammal life at zoos, there's so much more to be explored. Learn about some of the stranger species that don't often make it into books and movies.
Wild, Weird, and Wonderful
Stretch your imagination far enough and you might be able to invent bizarre animals that aren't so different from real-life weird mammals. Around the world there are so many wild and strange animals. The truth really is stranger than fiction. Check out these guys with your students: star-nosed mole, elephant shrew, long-beaked echidna, pink fairy armadillo, longeared jerboa, aye-aye, tarsier, bush dog, lowland streaked tenrec, pygmy marmoset, and Malayan tapir.
You can have your students do short research essays or poems about them. For older students, use this list and then make up some names of fake animals. Assign each student a real or fake animal (they should keep it secret if it's real or not). Their homework assignment is to draw a picture of their animal and then write a little bit about it. Encourage the students who get fake animals to make them strange but believable. Then have all the students bring their pictures and bios back to school for a show-and-tell. Have the rest of the class try to guess whether it's a real animal or not.
National Geographic for Kids has a website that's filled with high-quality information and images to teach kids about animals. There are videos, activities, games, stories, a blog, and much more to keep your students busy and learning for hours. Visit http://kids.nationalgeographic.com.
Going, Going, Almost Gone
Extinction means a plant or animal is gone forever. Dinosaurs are extinct. Extinction has been happening since the beginning of time from natural causes like changes in climate or volcanic eruptions. Nowadays, extinction is happening much faster because people are not being careful enough. People are destroying the natural habitats of animals, over-hunting animals, and poisoning them by using insecticides and pesticides. Luckily, more and more people are recognizing the need to better protect animals and the Earth. First, people learn about the problem, and then it's easier to find a solution.
You can learn more about the problem by making an endangered animal zoo. You can use a bulletin board or make a wall display. Create fun cage designs and have children draw pictures of endangered or even extinct animals. Then put the pictured animals in the zoo.
You can have older students research why these animals are threatened and what can be done to protect them. If you make the zoo a hallway display, you could even post a petition next to the zoo to gain support for the Endangered Species Act or some other policy or effort to protect animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a great kid's website that discusses the Endangered Species Act at www.fws.gov/endangered/kids/index.html.