Inspiring the next generation of wildlife protectors

Last week I had the fantastic honour of representing Discovery Education (for whom I work whilst wearing my 9-5 hat), in a special Racing Extinction assembly delivered to 300 young people at Claires Court Senior Boys School in Maidenhead.

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As part of my role at Discovery Education, I worked on the school resources for Racing Extinction – sub editing the content of all the lesson plans and presentations that supplement our chosen clips from the documentary. I also sub edited the descriptions/blurbs that went with each of the clips and the marketing material and public site, too.

2I knew that some of the assembly audience would have used these in their classes, but for those who weren’t entirely familiar with the documentary, I began the assembly with a trailer, before going on to explain that I’d actually spent time out in South Africa, at game reserve called Shamwari — to help work on conservation issues faced in the wild.

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For this particular talk, and given that I wanted to focus on the content on the actual Racing Extinction documentary, the main body of my presentation was about two specific animals – the polar and the manta ray.

I divided the room in half (a little trick given to me by Will Travers), with one side of the room representing the polar bear, and the other; the manta ray. I then read out 10 facts, asking students to declare whether the fact I had given was about their animal, by way of a show of hands.

The idea was to dispel myths and insert knowledge.

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Facts:

  1. The normal life expectancy of this animal in the wild is 40 years = manta ray
  1. The average weight of this animal is 1.4 tons = manta ray
  1. This animal mainly eats seals, which they catch using their remarkable sense of smell = polar bear
  1. This animal’s natural predator is the killer whale = manta ray
  1. There are 20,000-25,000 of these animals remaining in the wild = polar bear
  1. Global warming – resulting the rise of sea levels, sea temperatures and acidity of the sea has affected the availability of this animals main food source = both
  1. Climate change is currently the greatest single threat to this animal = polar bear
  1. Hunting by humans is a big threat to this animal. In the early days, they were hunted and killed so that the oils could be extracted from the body = manta ray
  1. This animal has international protection after CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) listed it in their appendices in 2013, meaning that their trade is heavily restricted = manta ray
  1. Finally, this animal shares its habitat with Ships and tankers of all kinds. Most of these ships use something called heavy fuel oil — meaning the animal is at great risk from leaks or spills which would be catastrophic to its environment = polar bear

I was surprised (and delighted) to see how well received the game was, and how much the students both engaged and considered their answers.

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As Born Free Foundation was a partner of Racing Extinction, working with Discovery to promote the film, I asked their policy advisor Dominic Dyer to join me as a special guest, speaking about important wildlife issues at home and abroad, the influence of films such as Racing Extinction, and how the young people in the room are the ones with the knowledge and the power to reverse some of the mistakes made by their parents’ generation.

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Thank you kindly to Claires Court School for inviting us along and for all the positive feedback we received! And thank you to Dominic for providing such fantastic and inspiring call to arms.Assembly Claires Court

Learn more about Discovery Education’s Racing Extinction resources here.

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