School Classes Help Save Gorillas

Kids are helping save gorillas in many creative ways through classroom projects. Here are two great examples:

Michigan school's "Save the Gorillas Gang"

In 2008, a new group of young gorilla conservationists who call themselves the "Save the Gorillas Gang" launched an ambitious program at Maple Tree Montessori Academy in Brighton, Michigan. When the upper elementary school class (ages 9-12) decided that they wanted to do something to protect animals for their environmental science project for the new Nature Education Program, teacher Julia Liljegren told them about the mountain gorillas.

The kids grew more excited the more they learned, according to Liljegren (known now as their "silverback"). They created a colorful design for T-shirts, mugs and posters and held a fundraising walk, including a can and bottle refund drive. By the end of the year, they had raised $1,051.88 for the Fossey Fund and planned an Earth Day presentation on gorillas. Finally, they planned to write letters to their representative in Congress and conduct a petition drive urging gorilla protection, then invite the representative to the school to receive the letters during a media event.

The T-shirt slogan: "it's their planet too: Save the Mountain Gorillas" expresses a compassion for all living things that is echoed in the comment several members of the "gang" at Maple Tree contributed for this report: "Not many people know they are endangered so they don't care, but they should because mountain gorillas deserve to live just like we do," says Jazmine Mellem, age 10. "Even if someone or something is different ... we all live on this earth and we all deserve toeb treated fairly," according to Brooklyn Rue, age 9. "This is their planet too, and we have no right to hurt," says Vivian Pearsall, age 10.

Atlanta kids make helping gorillas real

Another project started when five 1-year-old children in a fourth-grade language arts class at Greenfield Hebrew Academy in Atlanta were assigned to read on the Web about endangered animals and write an essay about what they would do for the animals if they had $100. Student Brinkley Berch asked "could this be real?"  With help from teacher Marci Kaplan, she and her classmates created a PowerPoint presentation for a school assembly, put up signs around the school, and made announcements encouraging other students to contribute a dollar or more in return for the privilege of wearing jeans to school one Friday instead of following the usual dress code. Joanne Truffelman, vice chair of the Fossey Fund's board of trustees, spoke to the fourth-grade students about Dian Fossey's life and the plight of the gorillas. The class used the $320 they raised to adopt the Fund's anti-poaching patrol and an infant gorilla.

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