Teaching the Explore

Where are the Galápagos Islands?

Explain to the pupils that we are going to be looking at a set of islands called the Galápagos Islands. Has anyone heard of them? Why might pupils have heard of them?

Pupils to be given access to atlases so that they can locate them on a map. What geographical information does this give us? (E.g. hemisphere location, oceans, climate zone, etc.)

Information on the Galápagos Islands

Explain to pupils that the Galápagos Islands are a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean. They form a province of Ecuador. In total, the Galápagos Islands consists of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and lots of islets and rocks. It is situated on either side of the equator.

The Galápagos Islands are volcanic islands that have been formed of lava piles. They are dotted with volcanoes, many of which are periodically active. The landscape is rugged and accentuated by high volcanic mountains, craters and cliff faces.

Watch the video on the slide, the trailer for David Attenborough’s Galápagos series:

Discuss what the pupils have just seen – why do they think this could be a special place?

Explain that the Galápagos Islands were formed through volcanic eruptions between 700,000 and 5,000,000 years ago.

When they were first formed, nothing lived there. Over time many species made it their home. These include tortoises, red-footed booby, blue-footed booby and finches.

It is an important place for conservationists to observe certain species and study special creatures. Ask pupils to think about why this might be?

Explain that the islands are renowned for unusual wildlife. For example, the giant tortoise is thought to have one of the longest life-spans (150 years) (We will find out about these later in the lesson). There is also an impressive array of species on the islands that have evolved with adaptations that are impressive, and some unique.

A conservationist is someone for who actively works for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. Do pupils know anything about the work that conservationists do, and why?

Endangered species

Many of the species that live on Galápagos are endangered and on the verge of extinction. What do pupils already understand by the terms ‘extinction’ and ‘endangered’?

Endangered means that there is serious risk of extinction. Extinction means that something will cease to exist.

Native species at risk of extinction include the Galápagos penguin, the Barrington Land iguana and the Galápagos tortoise.

Explain that one species is very important – the Galápagos tortoise. This will form the focus of the rest of this Explore.

The Galápagos tortoise

Begin by asking the class what they already know about the Galápagos (or giant) tortoise. Do they know about its diet, its lifespan or how it lives?

Galápagos tortoises (otherwise known as giant tortoises) colonised virtually every island in the archipelago. However, over time they adapted to suit their environment. They developed into different species based on their different surroundings and what they ate.

Their daily life consists of grazing on grass, leaves and cacti, lazing about in the sun and dozing nearly 16 hours per day. Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, averaging over 100 years. Sadly, only 5 to 10% of the original number of tortoises remain on the island, with many considered endangered.

Galápagos tortoise conservation

Conservationists who work on the Galápagos Islands are helping to protect this species from extinction. The BBC and Discovery videos in the slide explain more about the life of these tortoises. Whilst pupils are watching, they should consider the following:

  • Conservationist are trying to save the tortoise species. How will tourism impact on this work?

Main task

Discuss with the pupils why it is important that these wonderful creatures need protecting. Explain that they are going to be creating leaflets imagining that they are working for the Galápagos Conservation Trust. These leaflets will be used to help tourists understand the need for protecting the tortoises and why they are essential to the future of the islands.

In their leaflets, they will need to make sure that they include:

  • An introductory paragraph about the Galápagos tortoise – where it lives, etc.
  • Information about why they are considered endangered.
  • What conservationists are doing to help them survive.
  • What tourists can do to help protect them further.

Assess, reflect, connect

Now we have learnt about the Galápagos Islands pupils should be able to answer these questions!

  • Why are the Galápagos Islands important to conservationists?
  • How can humans protect endangered species?