SACRAMENTO— This week, September 21-27, marks the 12th annual Sea Otter Awareness Week. In addition to raising funds for and awareness of the plight of these important marine animals, this year Defenders of Wildlife has launched a free downloadable education unit for teachers to use in the classroom. The unit includes multiple activities and assignments, all highlighting marine biology and sea otter conservation.
“It is very exciting to be able to offer these materials to educators, especially during a week that is meant to raise awareness about the plight of these important marine mammals,” said Haley Stewart, California Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. “We work year-round to protect sea otters, and the more people know about the threats to the otters and their habitat, the more successful our efforts will be.”
The educational unit is geared toward students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and is aligned to California, Oregon and Washington state educational standards. In the United States, sea otters live off of the Pacific Coast and in Alaska, so students in this region may find learning about local native species particularly engaging. The unit is not limited to these students, however, and can be modified for use with younger and older students across the country.
“If we can get children to identify with the wildlife around them, then it can be much easier for them to understand and apply concepts vital to successful conservation,” said Stewart. “And sea otters are the perfect species for this. They are charismatic animals, and they are critical to helping maintain healthy marine ecosystems.”
Sea otters are a keystone species critical to maintaining the balance of the near-shore kelp ecosystems. Though sea otters once numbered several hundred thousand to more than a million, they are now one of many species struggling to survive in the face of various threats, including reduced habitat and disease. In the early 1900s the fur trade caused worldwide numbers to plummet to a total of only 1,000-2,000. Today, there are estimated to be just over 106,000 worldwide.
For more information: http://www.defenders.org/sea-otter-awareness-week
To download the free teacher education unit: http://www.defenders.org/sea-otter/educational-materials
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.