Endangered Species and Animal Classification

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SWBAT use an online database to find endangered animals from each vertebrate class as well as several animal groups.

Big Idea

All animals have a life cycle.


15 minutes

I start the lesson with this question:  What are endangered species?  I give them 3 minutes to think and then have them share with the other students at their table.  Then I show them this short video.  


From Billions to None Preview




60 minutes

I explain to students that they will be using an internationally recognized database to find information about an endangered or threatened species from each vertebrate category (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish), an invertebrate, and a plant.  They will take basic notes and then look for similarities and differences between the animals' habitats and the threats they face.  They will use this information to make a decision about what animal to use for a project we will be doing later, Create a Zoo Environment.

The first step of the student exploration activity involves students in using a database.  It's important for students to understand what simple databases are, and how they can be used in a scientific context.  

In this case, they are going to use the IUCN Red List.


Students search for information on endangered and threatened species in each of the following categories: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, and plants.  It is a very user-friendly interface.

Here is a video that gives students information on how to use the filters to conduct their search.


Students' ability to put notes into their own words is dependent on many factors, including the time of year during which you teach this lesson.  In the video below, I review the basic notes they will be taking during this lesson.


Here is the organizer  I created to help students take notes on key details.  I share it with them on Google Drive and they fill it out and send it back to me.



25 minutes

In the final part of this lesson, students look at the data they have collected for the 7 different categories and answer the following questions in their science journal.  They do not need to copy the questions, just number the answers. 

  1. What similarities can you find between the habitats  (some) of the species you researched?
  2. What similarities can you find between the threats to (some) of the species you researched?
  3. Provide 3 examples of how the species on your list are different from one another.  Aim for high level comparisons.  It is not enough to say that two living things are different because one is an amphibian and one is a bird.
  4. What surprised you most during your research?


After students have had about 15 minutes to write out their answers to these questions, I either have them share using an inside-outside line or I randomly call on 3 students to answer each of the questions.  I recommend the Class Dojo randomizer as an alternative to popsicle sticks!