Creature Congress


from Earth Day in Your School and Community © 1993 published by Heartland All Species Project, Kansas City, MO USA

Enthusiasm for learning about their creature is high after students have "made friends" with them. Using this natural motivation, we encourage the students to use resource books to put information together for a Creature Congress. The Creature Congress is a mock legislative body where each "creature" stands before the human community and makes a case for humane and ecologically balanced treatment of their species. We encourage the children to include scientific facts and figures, as well as aesthetic and emotional considerations, when presenting their creature's case. Have fun with the classroom arrangement by making name cards for each creature representative's place. The representative can approach a podium or the chairs can be placed in a circle, with each creature speaking from their seat. Masks which leave the mouth free can be worn, allowing the student to gather more courage to speak. From behind a mask, a shy student may feel protected. If the school or one of the parents has a video camera, you can record your own "congressional" hearings. The students can learn a great deal from making the tape, including seeing how they came across. A report on the chosen species can be used as a writing assignment as well.

If you choose, the information gathered in defense of the students' creatures or some aspect of the environment can be used to attempt to affect our economic or governmental systems. Perhaps the students would like to send information to their elected representative on some issue. Maybe a certain company would be found to be harming the environment by how it explores for raw materials or by how it eliminates production wastes. Writing to the company and to governmental regulatory agencies might just make a difference.

In 1990, a group of students at Pershing Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska decided that they would not eat the tuna that the school cafeteria served because the tuna were caught in a way that killed dolphins. The news media picked up the story nationally, influencing Star Kist to change their policy. Star Kist promised to can only tuna that were caught in ways that didn't harm dolphins.

Helping students learn how to use, form and reform their economic and political tools is very important. How they approach the topic is very important. There is a valuable human being behind each law or company policy. Even if we disagree with what a person believes or does, we must treat each one with respect and caring. In their attempt to remain caring, students must at the same time learn to remain vigilant and not surrender their views to a persuasive but mistaken adult. This is a wonderful opportunity to help future citizens learn to take a responsible part in their own self government.

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