Using Film to Teach Animal Conservation: Elephant Poaching

My children and I have long been advocates for animals, the community, and the environment. When the kids were younger we were actively involved in Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots programs – undertaking a variety of animal conservation projects. Now as teens, we have turned our attention to scouting but the emphasis on conservation is still a major focus of our activities.

image of an adult African elephant on the savanna with text Using Film to Teach Animal Conservation: Elephant Poaching @EvaVarga.net

I was given an opportunity to preview this film for free before it’s release date and am being compensated for my time in preparing this post.
As always, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate advertisement links to 3rd party sites.

As a family, travel is also very important to us. We have traveled to China, Peru, Ecuador, the Galápagos islands, and several countries in Europe.  Through each of these experiences, sustainable agriculture and trade practices are discussed. Presently, we are preparing for a holiday in Thailand later this year and we are carefully reviewing the numerous companies that cater to tourists – of particular concern are companies that advertise elephant rides or shows. Bafflingly, the nation has yet to implement laws to protect its captive elephant population. It is a complex issue.

There are thought to be fewer than 5000 elephants left in Thailand, yet a whopping 4000 of them are captive. Following Thailand’s 1989 ban on using elephants for logging, many mahouts claim that without charging tourists for rides and shows, they and their animals would starve – elephants cost a minimum of 1000B per day to feed properly.

In addition to the ban on elephant logging, the trade of ivory from elephant tusks has also been banned since 1989. However, the demand continues in many countries. Since a third of the elephant’s tusk is embedded in its head, poachers kill the animals in order to harvest the ivory. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many consumers do not realize this. Raising awareness is a huge step to help combat poaching and to ensure the survival of elephants.

Natural History of Elephants

Elephants have been part of human culture for thousands of years and are similar to us in many ways. They live in large, complex social families who communicate and interact daily. They are intelligent, having the largest brain of all terrestrial animals today.

Elephants benefit their ecosystem by fertilizing the soil with their dung, digging water holes which benefit themselves and other wildlife, and by creating paths through the landscape as they travel. As elephant and human populations grown, conflict for resources is on the rise. People will need to make important conservation decisions about elephants to ensure their future.

One of the major concerns of the ivory trade is the alarming changes in the behavior of African elephants. Those on the front lines studying elephant behavior witness the alarming effect poaching has had on the elephants that survive – scientists agree that survivors of poaching are stressed.

Their fears can disrupt the elephants’ complex matriarchal social structure, reduce their success in breeding, and increase their antagonism toward humans. Elephants mourn their deceased companions, demonstrating rituals that include touching the remains and carrying the deceased elephant’s bones or tusks with them.

movie poster for Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant AdventureAnimal Conservation Lessons

Teaching children about threats to wildlife and animal conservation is not easy. Thought must be given to the age of the child as well as their individual disposition.

To introduce young children to poaching, you can start with a family movie night to teach about elephant poaching. Phoenix Wilder: and The Great Elephant Adventure is an excellent place to start as it is aimed at young children, introducing the subject in a gentle manner.

The film stars Sam Ash Arnold as Phoenix and Elizabeth Hurley as Aunt Sarah. It was written, directed, and produced by Emmy-nominated producer, director, and writer Richard Boddington (of Against the Wilds films).

My children and I enjoyed watching the film recently and it provided a great tie-in to our upcoming holiday. We particularly enjoyed the cinematography of the film and interview at the end with Dr. Richard Leakey, the second of the three sons of the archaeologists Louis Leakey (Jane Goodall’s mentor) and Mary Leakey.

Get Involved

After a family discussion, lessons and activities can be introduced to broaden the child’s understanding of elephant poaching. Young children can create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Asian and African elephants and create posters to teach others about the ecological importance of elephants. Older students can debate poaching and wildlife conservation laws and create advocacy posters to raise awareness.

  • Instead of gifts, ask guests to donate to the International Elephant Foundation for the holidays or your birthday.
  • “Adopt” and elephant through an conservation organization or your local accredited zoo where your funds help protect elephants and their homes worldwide
  • Choose jewelry or souvenirs made from the Tagua nut – a great alternative – instead of ivory.
  • Write a letter to elected officials urging them to support animal conservation and a ban on ivory.
  • Have a sustainable palm-oil free bake sale to raise awareness and donate funds to a conservation group.

Seek out curriculum and materials in conservation biology, ecology, and natural resource management to further your study of elephants and animal conservation issues. Here are a few links I have gathered with free resources to help you get started:

Watch Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant Adventure

Phoenix Wilder, And The Great Elephant Adventure will be released in theaters nationwide on April 16,  2018, at 6 p.m. local time, which also happens to be World Elephant Day.

To find out which theater nearest you will have the film, enter your zip code at this website. Then, pre-order your tickets for easy  film-going.

Phoenix Wilder: And The Great Elephant Adventure Trailer from Richard DC Boddington on Vimeo.

Win 5 Tickets for Your Family 

Enter to win 5 tickets to see Phoenix Wilder: And the Great Elephant Adventure on April 16th, 2018 in a theater near you. 20 winners will get 5 passes to see the movie at closest theater to them. The giveaway begins 03/11/2018 10:00 pm and ends 03/28/2018 03:00 am. Follow the instructions on the widget below to enter for your chance to win.

Adventure Corps :: Africa

Every summer, our public library encourages kids to continue reading and to do so, provides a variety of incentives.  From what I understand, most libraries in the United States participate in the program and while the theme will be consistent whether you are in Oregon or Minnesota, the way in which each library implements the program will vary.
I have always been impressed with our library … particularly the children’s librarians who go out of their way to develop fun, engaging and educational programing for all ages.  The 2011 theme is One World, Many Stories and children ages 6-11 take part in Adventure Corps – stories and crafts specific to this age group.  We have attended when we can – though sadly, not as often as we would like.  This week, we journeyed to Africa.
African Adventure
Jambo, rafi ki! Hello, friend! “Safari” is Swahili for journey, and that’s what we’ll do. Travel from east to west Africa with a story from Kenya, and a story and game from Ghana. Learn to speak Swahili and make a mask.

Upon our arrival, the kids were given an opportunity to play with a number of the musical instruments that Heather McNeil had brought in to share.  Heather is one of the most dynamic storytellers at the library and we discovered that she has traveled to Kenya multiple times herself to collect stories and perfect her craft.  We were delighted to spend the afternoon listening to her as learned more about Africa.

The instruments the boys are shown with here are called, shekere.  The shekere is a handmade rattle consisting of a hollow gourd or calabash, covered on the outside with a net of seeds, beads, shells, or any available material. Although its origins are West African, today it is found in the Americas and Caribbean as well.  Check out this website to learn more and to find instructions to build one for yourself, The Beaded Gourd.

The girls are modeling a kalimba or thumb piano.  A kalimba is an African musical instrument, a type of plucked idiophone common throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. You can play one here at PBS: AFRICA.

The program began with Heather sharing with us a wonderful oral telling of Who’s in Rabbit’s House (Masai Tale) by Verna Aardema.  Her animation and voices had everyone – adults and children alike – enthralled.  We then learned to count in Swahili and jumped to count out each number.  She then read aloud Zomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott.

Last summer, we spent several weeks inundating ourselves in the culture of Africa as a part of a Geography Co-op.  You can read all about our activities on my Squidoo lens, Africa: A Homeschool Unit Study.

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Wrap-up

Where did the summer go?  I completely forgot to summarize our activities each week during our unit study Explore Our World : AFRICA.  We were actively engaged in a variety of learning activities but as the summer progressed, other obligations began to conflict with our plans and my neighbor and I were not able to get together as often.  Not surprisingly, I also neglected to take many photos!

Week 3 :: Western Africa

  • Key Points – Region more diverse ecologically than Northern Africa.  Many European nations had colonies in this area.  The cultures are more settled (as opposed to nomadic) and thereby agricultural cultures dominate.
  • Read aloud Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples Ears by Verna Aardema and created a crayon resist of a savannah animal
  • Did a comparison (Venn diagram) of Little Red Hen by JP Miller and Talking Vegetables by Won-Ldy Paye & Margaret Lippert
  • Discussed the meaning of onomatopoeia
  • Sampled cassava chips
  • Began a mini-book of African animals
  • Played several games of Mancala
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD.

Week 4 :: Western Africa, cont.

  • Key Points – Slavery was once prominent here –> huge impact on economy –> formerly rich region now poor.  Masks are a key component/feature in festivals and ceremonies.
  • Read aloud In the Rainfield by Ann Grifalconi, Mrs Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye, Talk Talk, Why the Sky is Far Away and Anansi and the Talking Melon
  • Painted an animal in Naïve style of Ghana and read aloud Man Who Painted the Sky (illustrated in a similar style)
  • Began a mini-book of African style homes
  • Cooked Benne Cakes (a recipe from the Malinke) and sampled dates and chocolate from West Africa
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Watched a Schlessinger media video on Ancient Africa.

Weeks 5 & 6 :: Eastern Africa

  • Key Points – Animal / Wildlife Reserves prominent in Eastern Africa.  Water is a valued resource for life.  Differences and similarities among daily use of water in Africa and in the United States.  Mt. Kilamanjaro.  Lake Victoria – source of the Nile River.  Madagasgar has unique (endemic).
  • Did a water comparison study.
  • Read aloud Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Trouble, The Good Lion, Young Mouse and the Elephant, The Lonely Lioness, Rain Makes a Monkey of Lion, We All Want a Safari, Count Your Way Through Kenya and Kenya A-Z
  • Enjoyed listening to music from Western Africa with African Playground CD. 
  • Created beaded bracelets inspired by Maasai.

Week 7 :: Central Africa

  • Key Points – Ethiopia considered the cradle of civility, so many fossils, etc.  Birthplace of coffee.  Region is dominated by rainforest.  All countries are former colonies of European countries.
  • Played a thumb piano or mbira on PBS Kids.
  • Read aloud The Elephant’s Wrestling Match
  • The kids wrote their own African fable.

Week 8 :: Southern Africa

  • Key Points – Apartheid.  Nelson Mandela.  Desmond Tutu.
  • Read aloud Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, A Child’s Day in a South African City, Marriage of the Rain Goddess, Count Your Way Through Zimbabwe, The Girl Who Spun Gold
  • Put together lapbooks with all the mini-books we had begun
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Week Two

This past week, we focused upon the countries in Northern Africa.  In doing so, we learned that the countries in the northern region of Africa are characterized by the desert biome and thereby many of the cultural groups that reside in this area are nomadic.  As such, for many, cattle are very important in their lives.

We also discovered that along the coastal areas, the populations are very dense and as you proceed south, the populations become more sparse due to the climate and environmental conditions (desert).  Throughout the first centuries (633-732 AD), Arabs spread their culture and religion across the northern countries and even into the southern parts of Spain.  To this day, their influence is very strong though Christian and Jewish faiths are also prominent.

Africa Unit Study :: Week Two

Listed below are the key activities we coordinated for the second week of our study. Join me each week as I outline the many hands-on activities and projects we implement to introduce the kids to the beauty and culture of Africa.

  • Read aloud Living in the Sahara by Nicola Barber, Houses & Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman, and A is for Africa by Ifeoma Onyefulu
  • Read about the Tuarag of the Sahara
  • Began a flip-book illustrating many of the cultural groups of Northern Africa (Tuarag, Berbers, Copts & Nubian)
  • Illustrated on a map the cultural regions of a variety of ethnic groups in Northern Africa
  • Prepared a few Northern African recipes:
    • Saffron & Raisin Couscous (National dish of Algeria)
    • Carthagenian Flank Steak (Morocco)
    • Chick Pea Tagine (Morocco)
  • Discussed differences between soils (potting soil/dirt, clay, and sand) and took part in a soil erosion experiment
Check out my Hub page for more information about our Africa Unit Study

Explore Our World: Africa – Unit Study Week One

My neighbor is a retired teacher and the grandparent of two girls the same age as my children. This summer we are venturing on a journey through the continent of Africa together; team-teaching a variety of lessons to engage our kids in the culture and geography of the continent.

We will meet three mornings a week for approximately 90 minutes. In that time, we will do a variety of activities that will incorporate the art, language, music, science and history of the region. Each day, the children will also journal about what they learned each day in illustrations and words.

image of a child's salt dough map of the African continent

This first week, our focus was to introduce the kids to the 7 continents, assuring they were able to locate each on a globe and printed map. We also discussed the overall geography of the continent of Africa – emphasizing the three main ecosystems in Africa (savannas, deserts, and rain forests). While the kids worked in their journals or between activities, we also introduced the kids to African music.

Africa Unit Study :: Week One

Listed below are the key activities we coordinated for the first week of our study. Join me each week as I outline the many hands-on activities and projects we implement to introduce the kids to the beauty and culture of Africa.

  • Overview of the 7 Continents
  • Practiced identifying Africa on the globe & on a printed map
  • Shared what we know about Africa and what questions we have
  • Salt Dough Map of the African Continent (MeiLi’s is shown above)
  • Put together a floor puzzle of the world, identifying the continents as we did so
  • Read aloud Atlas of Africa by Karen Foster and Africa by Mary Lindeen
  • Drew a map of the continent showing the three major ecosystems (Savannah, Desert & Rainforest)
  • Listened & danced to the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Ready for more? Jump over to see what we did during week two.