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CRES kids take action for endangered animals

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Sopris Sun Staff Report

After learning about endangered animals in 1st grade, a group of nine students at Crystal River Elementary School returned to 2nd grade determined to do something to help these creatures. “They are beautiful and I don’t want them to be gone,” reads a quote by Campbell Maybon posted on the classroom wall.

The kids approached their teacher, Marie Voss-Patterson, asking if she would help them organize some kind of project which would contribute to saving endangered animals. While her schedule was completely full, Voss-Patterson volunteered to spend her lunch hour once a week on such a project if any of the kids wanted to come in during their lunch and recess time. All nine kids jumped at the opportunity—and the 2nd Grade Lunch Bunch was born.

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Voss-Patterson is the Coordinator for the CRES PEAK Program (Program for Educationally Advanced Kids) and also the district-wide director of the Gifted and Talented Program. While the endangered animal fundraising project grew out of her work with students in the PEAK program, she told The Sopris Sun that the whole district is moving toward doing more project-based learning: groups of students working together on projects which have a real-life purpose.

These types of projects require kids to draw on a wide range of skills, such as research, math, oral-communication, and art. They require an extended period of time and multiple revisions to complete, and they result in some kind of presentation or product for an “audience” beyond the classroom walls.

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The 2nd Grade Lunch Bunch began by defining their objectives—to educate people about endangered animals, persuade them to care about these animals and raise funds to help protect these animals. Then they brainstormed possible ways to meet those objectives. Their plan evolved from organizing a lemonade and cookie stand and giving speeches about endangered animals to designing, producing and selling note cards, keychains and temporary tattoos of endangered animals in their habitats, and creating brochures about endangered animals to hand out at their sales table.

Once this plan was in place they embarked on some research along with some math work: How much would it cost to turn their artwork into notecards, etc.? Which companies for producing the note cards would be most cost-efficient? How should they price their products in order to maximize their profit?

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For the design of their products, each child created a drawing of an endangered animal in its natural habitat. They solicited critical feedback on their drawings from CRES art teacher Sue Annabel. Each child’s drawing went through multiple revisions before the final designs were completed. “I think I did 5 or 10 or 15 drafts before I got it how I liked it,” said Harper Stone about her drawing of a Sumatra Elephant.

The kids also spent a long time writing and revising paragraphs about their animals for the brochure, and providing peer critiques of each others’ writing. Their brochure includes detailed information about the animals, why they are endangered and what people can do to help them.

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“The green sea turtle…is endangered because everyone around the world pollutes the seven seas with trash,” reads a section in the brochure written by Aria Cuthbertson. “Plastic bags look like jellyfish…often turtles eat plastic bags and choke. Another reason sea turtles are endangered are artificial lights on beaches attract baby sea turtles to crawl toward the road instead of following the moon to the ocean.”

The brochure also includes “cool facts” about each of the endangered animals. For example, we learn that the tongue of a blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant, snow leopards are so good at camouflage that they can remain unseen from 3 feet away, and green sea turtles find their way to land to lay their eggs by detecting the magnetic pull of the earth.

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The kids sold their products and passed out brochures outside CRES on March 19th and 20th. They earned a total of $287 through their sales.  Voss-Patterson plans to continue working with these kids to develop a powerpoint presentation, create a Google website and provide presentations to other CRES students using these tools.

When asked what kinds of projects they might want to work on next the kids all shouted, “We want to do this again!”

For more information about purchasing any of their products you can contact Voss-Patterson at All proceeds benefit the World Wildlife Foundation.

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