Last July, sixth grade language arts teacher Robin Lee went to the IMAX theater, knowing little about lemurs and Madagascar, and not even aware what was playing that day. She was in for a treat. On the screen was Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. The movie—and its furry co-stars—inspired her. As a teacher, she knew her students’ curiosity would be piqued by these fascinating animals and their unique home.
Coming out of the cinema, I was still in awe of the movie: content, cinematography, and most importantly, the cause, raising awareness of the lemur plight. The students would be enthralled with these cool creatures, and most importantly, would be catapulted into environmental and ecological awareness.
So, at the start of this school year, she made a bold move—one that I’m sure none of her students or their parents could have anticipated at the Ellis School in Fremont, New Hampshire. Robin explains what happened that first day of school:
The students enter a room thematically filled with lemur books, rainforest vines, tropical colors, lemur pictures, Madagascar movie posters, stuffed animal lemurs, and more….all LEMURIZED! The response is excitement and curiosity. Thus began our year of Learning thru Lemurs.
From that day forward, her class was known as Team Lemur, using the slogans “Lemur Up” and “Lemur Strong” to motivate themselves, inspired by the character traits of their new lemur friends: “perseverance, dedication, teamwork, and playfulness.”
How exactly is a class lemurized for a whole school year?
Here are just a few examples of this lemurized curriculum:
- Creating posters about lemur conservation with a slogan, logo, mascot, lemur information, and a call to action
- Writing limericks (or lemuricks) and haikus about lemurs
- Reading assignments on the rainforest
- Formal debates about issues in rainforest preservation
- Watching the animated Madagascar movie and completing movie analyses on the theme, symbolism, character traits, and more
- Compare and contrast essay assignment using the original animated Madagascar and a later film in the series
- The list goes on!
Students are more engaged
Teacher Robin Lee emphasizes that she’s using lemurs to engage her students in the learning process. They are still learning the Common Core concepts (mandated by the U.S. Department of Education), but even better, they are learning to solve problems, to analyze situations, and they are active participants in their education. Robin states,
It’s hands-on, project-based, problem-solving, real-world, not a bunch of worksheets, and it’s learning that makes a difference. As an educator, I am thrilled with all of the above and the amazing amount of engagement that students have exhibited this year, all due to passion-based learning and LEMURS. Students have not only learned many ELA Common Core concepts during this year of the lemur, but more importantly they have begun their journey toward becoming global citizens.
The kids are excited about learning, and they love learning through lemurs. Here’s what they had to say:
What I love about lemurs are that they are our ancestors. – Brendan
I love learning through lemurs because everything is fun, and we are still learning life skills that we will need in the future. -Jamie
One thing that I love about lemurs are that they are always happy, playful, energetic, and just fun to learn about. -Heather
What I love most about lemurs is that they are still strong, even though their homes are getting destroyed. -Gaby
Fundraising for Lemur Conservation
Team Lemur is so enthusiastic about lemur conservation that they have organized several fundraisers, and the school year’s not even over yet! So far, they have raised $150 for the Duke Lemur Center — enough to symbolically adopt three lemurs from the center. These symbolic adoptions are perfect for an educational group, because they come with a lemur adoption kit with more information for the kids to learn about lemurs.
Inspired by their fundraising success, the class planned more fundraising activities. This time, they sold 225 bags of popcorn to support Lemur Love, raising $200!
The kids love the fundraisers too, because they are taking action for a cause they care about! They are raising awareness, and at such a young age, they are able to make a difference.
What I like most about learning through lemurs is all the fundraisers because they are fun and we adopt lemurs, making a difference. -Noah
My favorite part of learning through lemurs is the fundraisers because they are fun to make and we are helping to raise lemur awareness. -Tim
Stay tuned for more from Learning Thru Lemurs
At the Lemur Conservation Network, we love to hear about education initiatives like this, where students are engaged, and their teachers are passionate about helping their students become active global citizens. We need everyone’s help to conserve lemurs!
We’ll be following this 6th grade class through the remainder of the year, and we will be sharing some of teacher Robin Lee’s lesson plans and activities focused on lemurs, so that you too can learn through lemurs!