Weekly Warm-Up: Bringing the Nat Geo Museum to Your Classroom

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Reimann’s snake-necked turtle (Chelodina reimanni). Photo by Joel Sartore, National Geographic

It’s Museum Week, a time to celebrate the institutions that preserve and showcase our stories. And since we can’t bring you and all your students to the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., we’ll bring the museum to you… at least in a warm-up sized way!

National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore spent years creating beautiful portraits of our worlds captive species. They’re on display now at the museum in an exhibit called Photo Ark. These photos are so cool because they create a personal, intimate connection with insects as much as elephants. Joel hopes the pictures will inspire people to care and get involved in conservation efforts.

How can you get involved? Here are five ways to use the photos in your classroom.

Click this photo to see more than 70 shots from the exhibit.

1. Mapping Species
Print one of National Geographics Tabletop Maps and challenge students to plot out the natural habitats of a selection of the species. Invite them to draw “zoom in boxes,” where they include details about the animals.


2. Selfies for Empathy
Joel’s photos help us identify and see ourselves in a range of creatures. Some of them are smiling, covering their faces, gazing in awe, or cuddling—much like humans do. Encourage your students to take a photo of themselves or each other mimicking the animals. Then have them take the quiz to find out which animal they’re most like.

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3. Intro to Evolution
Use this gallery of wild cats and dogs as a starting point to discussing evolution. Ask your students to observe similarities and differences between house pets and their undomesticated counterparts. Then they can research why and how dogs, cats, and humans became such close friends.


4. Rejuvenating a Species
Several photos in the exhibit feature species whose numbers have significantly improved due to conservation efforts. They include the Mexican gray wolf, giant panda, whooping crane, black-footed ferret, and California condor. Invite your students to research successful conservation initiatives and brainstorm how to apply similar strategies to save other species.

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5. Habitat Web
Students may not realize that species decline is often caused by the destruction of animals’ habitats. Have students choose a species and investigate what plants, animals, and other environmental factors it relies on to survive. Encourage them to draw a habitat web that shows the many points of connection among species.

Did you use these photos for a different type of lesson? Tell us about it! Respond in comments or send your ideas to education@ngs.org.

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