When the students in Stephanie Sullivan’s fourth-grade class in Ohio started reading about gorillas, they learned about the work of Dian Fossey and what the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund does to help save gorillas in Rwanda and Congo. After studying the Fossey Fund’s website, they quickly decided they wanted to help, realizing that gorilla conservation requires money for daily protection, anti-poaching, research and habitat preservation. So they decided that they would raise money to “adopt” a gorilla from the Fossey Fund, since this program directly supports the gorillas.
How did they do it? The students got creative and used many approaches to raise money, including writing persuasive letters to family members, friends and even their school principal. Teacher Stephanie required them to use facts, examples and other good information in these letters, which they gleaned from doing lots of reading and research.
What the students wrote
“Gorillas are nice and peaceful animals, but if you can donate money to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund you can help stop gorillas from becoming extinct. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund needs your help to save gorillas and research them. Dian Fossey researched gorillas for many years and saved them and we need your help to continue doing that…. We humans are related to gorillas and we are both primates, and we need you to help care for gorillas….”
“Gorillas are endangered animals which are harmless, good for the environment, and sweet. If you donate money that would be very helpful. We are going to donate the money to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Gorillas are harmless and sweet because they don’t eat humans. Gorillas do not eat meat. They only eat plants and some fruit. Gorillas take care of their troop and are very smart…”
What the students said
“I like that gorillas are called ‘gentle giants.’ I thought gorillas were dangerous until I read more about them.”
“My favorite parts about gorillas are that they are strong and protective. I hope that in the future there are more gorillas left in the wild.”
“My hope is that there will be more things to help save gorillas and that more things are created that help humans interact with gorillas.”
“We raised a lot of money, more than we would have ever thought, thanks to our parents, family members, our principal and our teacher.”
“We helped the population of gorillas thrive and we are helping to save a species of animals and I think that is pretty amazing.”
“I liked that we could be an influence to the rest of the world, that kids could figure out how to help protect animals.”
But adopting a gorilla was not the only result of the student’s enthusiasm. They also decided to help educate others about conservation, recycling and other environmentally friendly policies. Some of the students also decided they want to visit Africa one day, to learn more about the gorillas and find ways to help the local communities who live near them.
“This has been a wonderful experience for my students,” says teacher Stephanie. “They were fully invested in raising money for the gorillas and are truly happy that they know they are making a difference. When the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund recognized the work that they had done, the depth of their work held so much more meaning for them. They were so excited to know that ‘their gorillas’ have more money for protection and continued research.”