Kids around the world are animal-lovers. Often times they fixate on one species, and want to become “experts”- learning their habitat, food, predators, and more. Parents can encourage learning and create global lessons from our kids’ favorite animals.
My daughter’s favorite animal has always been LEMURS! What are lemurs?? And how did we take this
obsession fascination and mould it into global lessons?
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Lemurs are endangered primates, found only in Madagascar, with more than 70 species… who became more well-known after King Julian starred in Madagascar. My daughter is a lemur lover. She has been since way before the now-famous movie. When she was 2, we made a visit to the Brookfield Zoo, and got to try on a lemur costume, and climb on a tree that extended through the glass enclosure housing the ring-tailed lemurs. She loves them because they are cuddly and bouncy, their babies hang on while the mamas climb, and the females always win the fights (which she likes to point out to her brothers).
I am a teacher and am always looking for ways to turn everyday play into subtle global lessons:). Because she was interested at such an early age, I jumped on board and began taking books out of the library to enrich her knowledge. She was a sponge, and at age 5 quizzed the zookeeper at the Houston Zoo about why there were not more natural trees in the lemurs’ habitats, why some of the lemurs were housed alone when they were such social animals, and why their enclosure did not have a sunny spot for them to warm up in the mornings like they do in Madagascar.
Many children have a favorite animal- chosen either from a movie, a stuffed animal, after visiting the zoo or reading a book. We can turn this love affair into a global lesson that they will really enjoy- because we all know that kids love to be the “expert” in a topic, and know more than the adults around them!
First, pick up books at the local library. After getting some fiction literature, where their favorite animal is the main character, try looking for non-fiction books. My kids love when I check out coffee-table photography books that have colorful pictures of the animals in their natural habitat. See if your animal has been written about in any of the Adventures of Riley books- these are great global adventure books about animals and conservation around the world. Once you see which are your favorites, purchase them so your child can re-read them a million times (or is that just my kids that do!? 🙂
After doing a little research, locate the animal’s natural habitat on a world map. Do they live in a large area or are the limited to a small area? Do they live in more than one continent? Do they live in your region? In the desert, forest, mountains, plains, ocean, etc? What other animals share their habitat? Who are their prey/predators?
Start a small notebook and include drawings, stickers, magazine collages, and information that you learn together about the animal. What does it eat? How is its home? Is it endangered? As the child chooses new favorite animals, add pages to your “world animals” notebook.
Check out your local zoo/farm if it is possible to visit this animal. Many times zoos have “Meet the Keeper” type events where kids can ask more questions based on what they have learned.
Write to the experts! With a little guidance, my daughter has corresponded with several experts in the field of anthropology/primatology. It is so cool to see her write questions to animal scientists who study lemurs, and then excitedly read their responses.
Because of her love of lemurs, one of the first countries my daughter was able to identify on the map was Madagascar: “where the lemurs live mommy!” We observed the island and I talked about how it broke off of Africa millions of years ago (and then subsequently broke off of India). Because it is an island, species have been able to evolve that do not exist anywhere else on the planet. The magnitude of unique plants and animals makes Madagascar one of the hotbeds for biodiversity on Earth- and now my daughter is interested in other animals from Madagascar. Look into the geography of your little ones’ favorite animals, and you can help them learn more about the world in which we (and they!) live.
What are your kids’ favorite animals? Do you have any other ideas of how to turn these animals into global lessons?