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CNN Student News Learning Activity: Species Loss

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  • Learn about species loss
  • Examine the role that humans might play in a possible mass extinction
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(CNN Student News) -- Students will learn about species loss and the role that humans might play in a possible mass extinction.

Share and discuss the following quote with your class:

"Many biologists believe the earth is in the midst of the sixth great spasm of extinction. The first five were naturally occurring (ice age, meteors, etc.), but this one's man-made. The pressure humans are putting on plants and animals is enormous. From deforestation to habitat encroachment to pollution, it's all adding up to rates of extinction that are profound. American Scientist Magazine recently estimated that three species are lost per hour -- that's 72 species a day, 26,280 per year. " -- Charlie Moore, CNN Senior Producer of "Planet in Peril"

After the discussion, challenge students to consider the role of biodiversity in the "web of life." Organize the class into small groups. Direct each group to the resources listed, including the CNN Student News video on species loss, to learn more about the possible current mass extinction, the likely causes of this extinction and its potential impact on human life.

Assign each group to use its information to diagram the chain of events that could lead to and result from a mass extinction. As part of their diagram, groups should select one endangered plant or animal, identify why that species is endangered and demonstrate how the extinction of the species could impact its ecosystem. Then, have each group present its diagram.

Following the presentations, ask students: How might the loss of multiple species ultimately affect human life on the planet. Wrap up the activity by having students make a list of suggestions of actions that might be taken to prevent a possible mass extinction.

Correlated Standards


Content Standard C: Life Science

Students in grades 5-8 should develop an understanding of:

• Populations and ecosystems

• Diversity and adaptations of organisms

Students in grades 9-12 should develop an understanding of:

• Interdependence of organisms

• Behavior of organisms

The National Science Education Standards are published by the National Academies Press.

Social Studies

Standard III. People, Places and Environments: Students will make informed and critical decisions about the relationship between human beings and their environment.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies are published by the National Council for Social Studies.


Standard 4: Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving & Decision Making

B. Students will plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.

C. Students will collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.

The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students are published by the International Society for Technology in Education.


Species, biodiversity, ecosystem, extinction, deforestation, habitat, pollution, development E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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