By David Robinson
Exhibit and education coordinators and other children’s museum staff often face a challenging assignment: creating an exhibit or activity that captures the interest of young people and offers a positive learning experience.
The 14th annual Endangered Species Day on May 17, 2019 provides children’s museums with an opportunity to highlight their educational programs and overall mission while also recognizing this nationwide celebration.
First approved by the U.S. Senate in 2006, the purpose of Endangered Species Day is to expand awareness about endangered species and habitat conservation and to share success stories of species recovery. Every year, museums, schools, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, conservation groups, parks, wildlife refuges and other locations hold Endangered Species Day events throughout the country.
There are several ways that children’s museums can observe Endangered Species Day on May 17 or another convenient time in May:
Prepare an exhibit. You could modify an existing display or organize a new one. This can feature dioramas, animal replicas, photos and artwork of endangered species and local habitats, books and other material as part of a temporary exhibit. The Endangered Species Day website includes a variety of resources, including a series of infographics that you can easily adapt to meet space limitations and other requirements. Even those museums that already have a full schedule of exhibits and other programs should be able to add a day or weeklong activity.
Invite a speaker. You can also invite a local expert from the Audubon Society or other group to speak about the actions people can take to help protect endangered animals and plants.
Offer specific children’s activities. Popular examples include a reading hour, an art table, bat box building, and milkweed seed bomb making (for monarch butterfly gardens). You can also invite people to take an animal tracking quiz—you can find one for your state by contacting the Department of Fish & Game or Department of Natural Resources (like these examples from Maine and Minnesota).
Engage your visitors. Encourage children (and adults) to express themselves about endangered species, their favorite animals, and what people can do to help. They can add their comments to a poster board or table journal. This may be the first time that many young people have talked about endangered species. Of course, it’s essential to highlight the positive, so be sure to emphasize the success stories of species recovery and that individuals can and do make a difference in protecting imperiled species.
Expand promotion. In addition to regular museum member outreach, share details of your exhibit/activity on the Endangered Species Day event directory or send the details to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Endangered Species Day website (www.endangeredspeciesday.org) features a variety of resources, including event planning information; a reading list; a series of infographics about endangered species conservation, actions people can take, and the Endangered Species Act; and color/activity sheets, masks, bookmarks, stickers and other material. Many of these can be downloaded and printed for use at your activity.
David Robinson is Endangered Species Day Director at Endangered Species Coalition. Learn more at www.endangeredspeciesday.org.