Rebecca Mitchell is a fourth-grade teacher at Winslow School in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Each year, she carries her passion for environmental conservation forward and inspires her students to get involved and take action to protect our world and the species within it.
Our class completes a unit on endangered animal science each year that begins by reading the novel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. After reading the book, the students then research endangered animals and conduct a community service project using the knowledge they have acquired. Understanding that Ivan is a fictional text, we use the WWF website and the WWF Together app as our primary resource for reference information on different endangered animals and on what we can do to help from our homes and schools. My students love exploring the different species with beautiful photography and facts galore.
For our community service project, our goal this year was to collect 1,100 recyclable products. We then recycle the cans and bottles and use the money acquired to adopt a symbolic class pet from WWF. This year, my students chose a gorilla in honor of Ivan. The impact of this unit is clear and profound on my students. I often see a passion ignite within them to advocate for our planet and animals. They begin to understand how they can make a difference and help the future of our planet.
I have also used many resources from WWF's Wild Classroom. I found many of the lessons within the Lesson Library to be enriching, engaging, and easy to differentiate to cater to all student needs. One of our fourth-grade fan favorites is making sea creatures out of plastic to demonstrate how other animals mistake litter in the ocean for food. Our class also recently participated in a Conservation in the Classroom livestream event, where they engaged with a WWF expert working to prevent wildlife crime and illegal wildlife trafficking.
This unique experience only increased their motivation to do their part to help protect animals like Ivan.
I have always considered myself an advocate for the protection of our planet. I had a natural love for all things living beginning early in life. Now, as an adult who understands the world a bit better, my best tool is my position as an educator. In this role, I can use knowledge and resources to not only provide an engaging and exciting unit, but to also be the change. I can guide students towards making a difference. Naturally, students look up to their teacher. If they see me making changes, they will make changes. I love to inspire changes beginning at school with my students and branching into the community. They hold the power to dictate the future of our world and I intend to give them the tools to make us all proud.