In this lesson, students will learn about threats to animal habitats across the globe and what is being done to protect them.
Featured Article: “Animals Are Running Out of Places to Live” by Catrin Einhorn and Lauren Leather
Wildlife is disappearing around the world as habitat loss increases. Many animal species have lost over 60 percent of their natural environment since 2001.
In this lesson, you will meet some of the animals most affected by habitat loss and explore the many factors causing it. In Going Further activities, we invite you to learn more about these affected animals and what can be done to stop the loss of their homes.
Scroll through the opening visual section of the article that illustrates the vertebrates that have lost the most habitat in the past 20 years. (This section goes from the words, “At least 33 percent habitat loss” to “At least 60 percent habitat loss.”)
What do you notice about the animals that have lost significant portions of their habitats? Which animals or statistics stand out to you and why?
What do you wonder? What questions do you have about the animals featured here or about habitat loss in general?
Afterward, with a partner, brainstorm a list of reasons for habitat loss across the globe. What role do you think humans play in this decline? You will later compare your lists to what you learn in the article.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. Where do most of the mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles featured in the opening section live? What makes these animals particularly susceptible to habitat loss?
2. What is biodiversity and why is it declining at rates unprecedented in human history, according to the leading intergovernmental scientific panel on the subject? How many species are threatened with extinction, according to this group?
3. What factors are driving habitat loss, according to the article? What role do human population growth and consumption levels play? Compare your list of possible reasons from the warm-up activity with what you learned from the article. How many causes did you get right?
4. What dangers does biodiversity loss pose for humans? Why do some scientists believe the growing threat is “comparable in significance to the climate crisis”? Why do these scientists emphasize that one can’t be solved without the other?
5. When the article was published, nations across the globe were set to meet in Montreal to negotiate a new agreement on biodiversity. What were some of the ideas and solutions being considered at this United Nations gathering? Which do you think are most promising or practical?
6. The article states, “Recognition is growing that stanching biodiversity loss requires addressing the needs of local communities.” Explain why this is the case.
7. The Times writers pose the question, “Can we find a way to share the planet with the rest of its inhabitants?” How would you answer that query? Do you believe humans will find a way to share the planet? Or, are you pessimistic about those chances?
Option 1: Create a one-pager
The article has many fascinating, alarming but also complicated details. Synthesize and share what you have learned by creating a one-pager. Here’s our step-by-step lesson plan for how to get started. You can start with a blank sheet of paper or use a template. If you need inspiration, you can see examples of other students’ work here.
Your one-pager should include some of the following:
A drawing that captures the main idea or theme of the article
Animals facing habitat loss
Causes of habitat decline
Quotes or statistics from the article
Words to capture the feelings or emotions you had while reading the article
Questions you still have about declining biodiversity and habitat loss
You can add more images, colors, information and words to your one-pager to make it interesting for your audience. Be creative! Then, share your creation with your classmates.
If you like how your one-pager turns out, submit it to our first ever “One-Pager Challenge” that runs through Jan. 18, 2023. (Be sure to check out the rules and criteria for the contest to see whether your one-pager meets them.)
Option 2: Conduct further research
The black capped fruit bat. The Brazilian dwarf brocket. The striped shrew tenrec.
Which animal featured in the article would you like to know more about? Research a threatened species featured in the article and share what you learn with your class. A good place to start is the Map of Life website and its Species Habitat Index. The platform’s data is the basis for the maps and visualizations featured in the Times article. You can also check out The Times’s Animal Topics page.
Then, create an infographic or public service announcement to inform others about your research.
Option 3: Explore solutions
On Dec. 19, The Times reported that nearly every country approved a sweeping biodiversity agreement to protect nature:
Roughly 190 countries early on Monday approved a sweeping United Nations agreement to protect 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030 and to take a slew of other measures against biodiversity loss, a mounting under-the-radar crisis that, if left unchecked, jeopardizes the planet’s food and water supplies as well as the existence of untold species around the world.
The agreement comes as biodiversity is declining worldwide at rates never seen before in human history. Researchers have projected that a million plants and animals are at risk of extinction, many within decades. The last extinction event of that magnitude was the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
While many scientists and advocates had pushed for even stronger measures, the deal, which includes monitoring mechanisms that previous agreements had lacked, clearly signals increasing momentum around the issue.
Read the rest of the article. Then, in writing or through discussion with a partner, respond to the following prompts: What is your reaction to the U.N. agreement? How effective do you think it will be in combating biodiversity loss and habitat loss? Does it go far enough? What new questions do you have about tackling the issue of declining biodiversity?
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