Summer Bag of Tricks: Endangered Species Day

These last days of summer seem a little manic.  Lately we have been racing through our "summer bucket list," making impromptu appearances at the many amazing fairs dotting the map, and tackling back-to-school organization efforts. Even as the school year casts a long shadow of the dog days of summer, we're taking a little time for some DGT-style fun.

Look out Fire Safety Day and Magic Wand Day, Endangered Species Day was a completely kid-driven day of educational fun.

It began when Little Miss Four brought her tiger and cougar figurines to breakfast. I mentioned the word endangered in my endless "mom chatter" (You know what I mean, right? Tell me I'm not the only mom who catches myself mid-sentence wondering  how I got from "do you want raisins in your oatmeal" to "I wonder how many varieties of grapes can grow in Minnesota?)

The next thing I knew, we were executing Endangered Species Day. Here's what we did, i case you'd like to join us.

Step 1: Research

  • Spend time learning about endangered animals with your child, then follow one of their great suggested activities.
  • World Wildlife Fund: Research specific species and discover how you can help protect them.
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Look locally for endangered species in your own state with this interactive map.

Step 2: Take Action

Thanks to the suggestion of the kids were inspired to take immediate action. Miss Second Grader led the effort.

  1. The girls discovered endangered animals native to our own state.
  2. They created Endangered Species artwork, drawing a picture of their selected animal as well as its primary threat.
  3. Then we sent our drawings along with letters to local and state representatives.

This was as fun and engaging for my four-year-old as it was for my seven-year-old!

Step 3: Field Trip!

We're fortunate enough to have two local zoos within a half hour of the house. Both are dedicated to informing visitors about the animals they host, intentionally working to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards even as they research solutions to current problems. After a morning of research about the meaning of the word "endangered," Miss Second Grader read every sign and jotted down a few notes, while her younger siblings pointed and waved at our exotic neighbors.

Step 4: Meatless Meal Makeover

Our second-grade-level research it clear that habitat loss is the leading threat to most endangered species. And habitat is being cleared at a dizzying pace in order to feed the world's growing population.

According to the UN's Food and Agricultural Division, diets rich in meat and dairy account for 40% of global land use and 70% of fresh water use worldwide. Swapping out a few meals each week with vegetarian alternatives may be one simple way our family can make a difference right away.

Thankfully, the kids will gobble up brown rice and black beans with just a few spices. That has become a lunchtime staple. For dinner on endangered species day, I fixed my favorite vegetable lasagna, with nearly all of the produce plucked straight from our garden (clearly a habitat-friendly option).

Building a whole day of fun around one basic lesson or idea has helped us make some unique memories this summer. This is a method that definitely gets our whole family thinking, talking, playing, and problem solving about big issues.