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Tacugama (Chimp Sanctuary)–A Worthy Service Learning Project!

  • Orphaned or abused chimpanzees,
  • A sanctuary that has survived 10 years of civil war.
  • A desperate need for money.

These are the ingredients of a service learning project that will intrigue and inspire middle school students.  On a recent trip to Sierra Leone in West Africa I visited Tacugama, a sanctuary for chimpanzees.  Their goal is to reintroduce the chimps back into the wild, but it is a long and expensive process.

Sitting chimp

learning to socialize

These chimps are in the enclosure that helps them learn to socialize with other chimps.  Many have not had that experience in captivity.

Chimps live in family groups in the wild–socialization is a survival skill.

Over 20,000 chimpanzees roamed the forests of Sierra Leone in the 1970’s, but now there are only 3,000.  There are a variety of reasons why the numbers have dropped drastically:

  • Their habitat has shrunk.
  • They are captured for medical research or to be sold as pets.
  • They are considered ‘bush meat” and when times are tough they are hunted for food.
  • They are highly susceptible to human diseases like HIV.

All most ready for release!

These chimps are almost ready to be released to wild!

The Sanctuary rescues chimps that are often in dire circumstances.  Baby chimps are adorable and so human-like that people often want them as pets.  However, a full grown chimp has 5 times the physical strength of a man, so the cuddly baby grows into a unruly adolescent that can wreck a home in minutes and into an adult that is dangerous.  Hence they are often chained and caged under deplorable conditions.  The Tacugama staff works hard to rehabilitate these chimps so they can live free. Click on this link to read about the history of the Sanctuary: http://www.tacugama.com/history.html.

Sierra Leone’s civil war was tough on the chimps as well as humans.  They were terrorized by bombs and gunfire and suffered physically and emotionally just as humans do.

It takes about $1000 to support one chimpanzee for a year. However, smaller donations are welcomed.   Schools, teams and/or advisory groups might find supporting this haven for battered and endangered chimpanzees a worthwhile project.  More information about supporting Tacugama can be found at this link: http://www.tacugama.com/support.html

Chimp nests

If you look closely at the trees you will see dark clumps of leaves–these are the chimps’ nests where they sleep at night.

Finally, there is a blog that students may find interesting (http://tacugama.wildlifedirect.org/).  The posts explain what is happening with individual chimps; the photos are wonderful!  Readers will learn a lot about chimps as well as the Sanctuary.  We often never know what inspires our students to make specific career and life choices — reading about the chimps of Tacugama may just be a catalyst for future decisions related to international travel, non-profit work, or veterinary work!

Watching us

Who is watching whom???

The one in the back whose face we cannot see was not impressed with us–s/he threw rocks at us.

PS–Feel free to use these pictures for your own use.

New Twist On Canned Goods Drive!

A sculpture of Pooh Bear made out of canned goods and jars of peanut butter

Pooh Bear

During the recent NELMS conference, the elevated walkway between the Westin Hotel and the Rhode Island Convention Center  was populated with whimsical sculptures of critters, earth moving vehicles, and angry birds. The sculptures, created out of canned goods, were part of a project to support the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

  Canned goods sculptute of a bulldozer

Teams could adapt this event for their own service learning projects. Often schools have canned food drives.  Why not have each homeroom or each team design sculptures out of the cans they collect and open the exhibit to the community for viewing as part of the plan to build awareness of the issue?  Or, the designs could be part of a project – based unit focusing on a driving question such as What is the long-term impact of hunger and starvation on a society? Part of the exhibition could include information and/or solutions the students have discovered through their research.

Several Common Core anchor standards could certainly be addressed in such a unit:

  • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  •  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  •  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

More importantly, students would be delving into a long-standing and relevant issue that affects every state and country. Think about taking your annual canned food drive to a new level!

  • Help your community
  • Build students understanding of a real-world problem
  • Involve students in seeking long-term solutions

Canned goods sculpture of a lobster in a pot.

Poster of categories in the Rhode Island project

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