Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about extinct and endangered species. It is designed to complement the Extinct and Endangered Species topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

This movie will explore extinction and endangered species. When children learn about extinct and endangered species, they learn about different plants and animals and explore how living things have adaptations to survive in their habitats. They also learn how living things rely on each other to survive, and understand how human actions can impact other living things and ecosystems. This movie will explore different extinct and endangered species of plants and animals, and investigate different causes of extinction, including habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution.

Review with your children that when a living thing is extinct, it is no longer living and none of its kind is alive today. Dinosaurs are the classic example of an extinct species. Remind your children that dinosaurs lived over two hundred millions years ago, long before people. Today, there are no dinosaurs left on Earth. We study their fossils to learn about them. Many scientists believe that the dinosaurs became extinct after a meteorite crashed into our planet and caused big changes, while others believe the dinosaurs died off gradually as the result of a variety of diseases plus the encroachment of mammals that ate dinosaur eggs. Either way, once the dinosaur’s habitat became unlivable, the species became extinct.

Dodo birds are another example of an extinct species. They used to live on the island of Mauritius, off the African continent. Dodo birds could not fly and had no predators in their natural habitat. In the 1600s, people landed on the island and began to hunt the dodos. The dodos also suffered from habitat loss as people settled the area, bringing with them cats, rats, and other foreign predators that hunted the dodos and destroyed their nests. Another example of an extinct species is the Tecopa pupfish, a small white fish which once lived in hot springs in California. People settled the area and began building canals and bathhouses which destroyed the Tecopa Pupfish’s habitat. In the 1970s, the Tecopa pupfish died out. Today, habitat destruction continues to be one of the main causes of extinction.

Remind children that endangered species are living things that are close to becoming extinct. The Javan rhinoceros used to flourish throughout Asia but they were hunted for their horns, and their habitat was lost as a result of wars in Southeast Asia. Today there are less than one hundred left in the wild, and they are one of the rarest large mammals on Earth. The Indian leopard used to inhabit different parts of Asia and India. They were hunted for their fur and killed because they posed danger to valuable livestock. However, they have become endangered mostly due to habitat loss and destruction.

Plants can also become endangered and extinct. The green pitcher plant is an endangered carnivorous plant found along the eastern seaboard of the United States. It grows mostly in wetlands and marshes, many of which are being destroyed to make room for buildings. Furthermore, pesticides sprayed on weeds and crops are destroying the plant. The rafflesia is a rare parasitic rainforest plant that grows the largest flower in the world – some can grow to a diameter of three feet. It also smells like a dead animal! The plant is close to extinction due to habitat destruction of the rainforest. Children can learn more about the rainforest in our Rainforests movie.

Experts estimate that over half of the world’s plant and animal species live in rainforests, and millions more species are yet to be discovered. But due to habitat destruction, much the result of illegal logging, many rainforest species are becoming endangered or extinct at an astonishing rate. Many species of plants and animals may disappear without ever having been discovered or studied.

Make sure children learn that living things depend on each other to survive. Create a food web or food chain of different plants and animals. What might happen if a plant or animal became endangered or extinct? How would that affect the next link on the food chain? You may want to screen the Food Chain movie for a review or extension of the topic. People are working together to help protect endangered animals. Some governments have created reserves and set aside land that cannot be developed in order to provide a safe habitat and prevent species from going extinct. Some zoologists and other scientists help breed endangered species and release them back into the wild. Some specially trained people harvest seeds from rare plants and grow them and then plant them in the wild. Many countries have laws that protect endangered species. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is a set of laws that help protect plants and animals from extinction. Each state has a list of endangered species and local governments work to protect them.

Urge children to do their part to protect endangered species. They can conserve natural resources, including water and energy, and keep the environment clean by reducing, reusing, and recycling. They can learn more about endangered and extinct species and educate others. They can talk to government leaders to make their voices heard and even adopt an endangered species by raising money and awareness to save them. Help your children become active global citizens and find ways to get involved.