National Geographic chose P.S. 205 to join in it’s Big Cat Initiative which serves as both a movement to help endangered cats in parts of Africa and teach students about big cat conservation.
P.S. 205 is one of four U.S. schools that will pair with schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana to help stop the endangerment to big cats.
“I think this is a good way for the students to be aware of big cat conservation,” said Michel Myrele, P.S. 205’s instructional technology specialist who has been communicating with Nat Geo on the project.
“They can go home and tell others. It’s a way of spreading the news for people to be aware of what’s happening ,” he said.
P.S. 205 applied in 2012 to be a part of the initiative and were informed of their acceptance in January.
According to information provided by National Geographic, the lion population has declined in Africa more than 90 percent in the last 75 years.
In addition, there are less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild.
There used to be as many as 100,000 tigers at the start of the 20th century.
Fourth and fifth graders from P.S. 205 have been learning about the need for big cat conservation through reading, writing, and Skype calls with explorers, National Geographic conversationalists and other students.
Colby Bishop, the director of Impact Initiatives at Nat Geo, said the goal is for the students to learn as much as they can on the subject of big cats and tell others about it.
Communication is the third prong in the three-prong approach the initiative calls for to save big cats.
The other two prongs include assessing the dwindling population of big cats and coming up with ways to protect those cats.
Two of the explorers the students have been working with are Beverly and Dereck Joubert – two of the founders of the Big Cat Initiative.
The Joubert’s usually speak with the students via Skype but recently visited the fourth and fifth graders as part of a February 16 assembly.
The students sat in awe as they viewed pictures of big cats the Jouberts took and listened to the Joubert’s tell stories of their experiences as explorers in Africa.
The Jouberts even had the students utter a collective roar at the end of the assembly in support of big cat conservation.
“You are the future of conservation,” Beverly Joubert told the students. “Without you we will be in a lot of trouble.”
“I think all of this is about us now collectively working together,” Dereck added. “We need ambassadors, we need ambassadors your age.”
“Without you guys – I can tell you right now – when you’re older there won’t be any cats left,” he also said.
Although they started the initiative in 2009, the explorers said they are just now starting to see a rise in the big cat population.
One of the highlights of the initiative is the ability for the students to exchange letters with students in Africa on the topic of big cat conversation.
“It’s important to show people there that we care too,” said Bishop.
According to Myrlene, the school is even considering starting a pen pal program for the P.S. 205 students with their counterparts in Africa.