Orangutans, polar bears, sumatran tigers and other endangered species made an appearance at Crane Country Day School last week on posters created by students in celebration of International Earth Day. Students from kindergarten through eighth grade came together to celebrate the school's inaugural "We Speak for the Animals" fair, held on the campus quad on April 22.
"I think we should speak for the most endangered cat in the world," said fourth-grader Dorothy Yaqub, who selected the amur leopard to study, along with classmates Juliette Calderon, Maud Christal, Ella Jones, Brianna Rodriguez and Kate Sheldon, as she explained that there are just 30 to 35 leopards left in the world, most living in Siberia.
The girls urged students, parents and faculty who attended the event to help the leopards by donating to the World Wildlife Fund.
Fellow fourth-grade students Jaeda Spence and Aria Fan studied the koala bear, which suffers from a shrinking habitat and is killed often for its fur. Jaeda, who hails from Australia, selected this animal with her friend because the koala is in serious decline in her home country, suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, brushfires and road accidents.
"We really wanted to educate people because the animals can't speak for themselves," said seventh-grade student Forest Dempsey, who formed the school's first animal rights club with classmates Spencer Turner and Sofia Martin-Fouroohi. The club meets weekly to discuss how they can help the animals.
"If slaughter houses had glass walls then everyone would be vegetarian," said Forest, who shared images of animal cruelty and logos from fast food restaurants that support such meat factories.
Forest, a vegetarian with two dogs, two turtles and five rabbits, started the club with his classmates because he loves animals and wanted to give them a voice.
Club co-founder Sofia Martin-Fouroohi also loves animals — particularly marine mammals. She volunteers at the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute and therefore knows a lot about the California sea lion, which she presented as endangered due to threats from its three primary predators: killer whales, sharks and humans. Humans are causing the greatest damage, and Sofia encouraged fairgoers to dispose of trash properly, thereby lessening the harmful materials that end up in our ocean, destroying marine life.
Kindergarten student Zoe Wolf was the youngest animal activist, and she selected the sumatran tiger because, "I like tigers a lot and my brother was born in the Chinese year of the tiger." She said the tiger's rainforest habitat is being threatened as humans cut down the trees to make paper products, particularly toilet paper. She also said that her family hopes to adopt a tiger and encouraged others to do the same.
Other animals studied included the sloth, bald eagle, orcas in captivity, rhino, gray wolf, moose and the mandarin duck. Motivational art posters with environmental messages were also on display. All told, 30 students chose to participate in this fair. It was not required, nor part of an assignment, but was done completely independently, which thrilled service learning teacher Janey Cohen.
"At Crane, the students are encouraged to create service learning programs that speak to them," Cohen said. "By empowering the students in this way, they are more motivated and their volunteerism is more meaningful."
In essence, Cohen is not only giving the animals a voice, but the students one as well.
Crane Country Day is a K-8 independent school dedicated to experiential education. The school's curriculum balances rigorous academics with joyful learning. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact Erin Guerra, director of admission, at 805.969.7732 x106 or click here.
— Ann Pieramici represents Crane Country Day School.