Dawn: Educating Children on Ways to Save the Wildlife

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Did you know that only 15% of of the birds affected by the Gulf Oil spill that happened last year made it through? Over 6,000 dead birds were found in areas affected by the spill (source). Over 2,000 birds were found alive, but only 1,246 of them were able to be cleaned up, nursed back to health, and returned to the wild (source). Obviously, oil spills are bad things, to put it simply, and helping wildlife recover is a monumental task.

Also, did you know that just a small amount of oil on a bird can be very dangerous? A bird’s feathers "hook" together like Velcro to form a tight waterproof barrier that provides insulation from extreme temperatures in air or water. Birds spend much of their time “preening,” or combing each feather with their beaks to keep the feathers aligned perfectly, so that they don't die from exposure. A small drop of oil sticking to a bird’s feathers causes them to mat and separate. This exposes the bird’s sensitive skin to extreme temperatures, which can result in hypothermia. Instinctively, the bird tries to get the oil off of its feathers by preening, which results in the animal ingesting the oil and causing internal damage.

Expanding Efforts

The makers of Dawn dish detergent have taken on the monumental task of trying to help save more birds from this horrible fate. As many of you know, Dawn effectively removes oil from feathers, and has, in fact, been used to help clean up after oil spills for the last 30 years, in conjunction with long-standing partners International Bird Rescue Research Center and The Marine Mammal Center. Recently, though, Dawn expanded its efforts. It hopes to not only help repair current oil spill damage, but to prevent future damage by educating students about the science behind oil spills and the responsibilities involved in taking care of the environment. Their goal is to educate one million children about how they can help save wildlife, all before the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

Educating Children

In March, Dawn launched the Junior Wildlife Champions education program, along with Discovery Education. This program provides resources to parents and teachers to help them investigate the environmental impact of oil spills, explain what happens during wildlife rescue, and offer creative ways kids can get involved in their own ways.

The lesson plans and activities are available to educators and parents in English and Spanish at Facebook.com/DawnSavesWildlife and www.discoveryeducation.com/dawn. They include fun and engaging science experiments, ideas, and action plans, and are geared primarily to children in grades three through five.

Says Katherine Chernick, a representative of Dawn, "this is a way for us to empower children with the knowledge to be the next generation of environmental stewards." Indeed, the concept of environmental stewardship is one that, arguably, still has not gained mass acceptance, perhaps because the things that concept entails on an individual, everyday basis are not clear. Dawn is doing what they can to clarify how we can teach our children to better care for our planet's water and animals.

It behooves us to at the very least engage our children in conversations about what our "environment" is, how they benefit from it, and how they, no matter how young or old they are, can and should do things to take care of it. Doing the three lessons provided on the Junior Wildlife Champions site is worth the effort. Hopefully, we can teach them that taking care of the environment is kind of like taking care of their room, just bigger. Who knows, it is entirely possible that your son or daughter could grow up to be an oil company executive and that your efforts teaching your children about environmental stewardship could prevent future oil spills and the future deaths of thousands of birds.

What efforts have you taken to help educate your child(ren) about wildlife? When the oil spill happened last year, how did you help your child to understand what was happening? What efforts have you taken to help the wildlife that was affected?

[Photo Credit 1 and Photo Credit 2]
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