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Running with Rhinos with Janina Cope


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Learning Objectives

  • Students develop an understanding of the different species and sub species of African rhinos.

  • Students explore the different requirements, behaviors and preferences of these species and use this knowledge to plan and build a suitable sanctuary.

  • NGSS – MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.*

Guiding ideas

1.    What is a rhino orphanage? 

2.    What special considerations might a baby rhino need? 

3.    What happens to the baby rhino once they are mature enough/have learned enough to survive on their own? 

4.    When bringing a rhino into an orphanage, what considerations might the staff make regarding healthcare, food, animal and storage space, accessibility, environment and more? 

5.    How would you design a rhino orphanage, what would you include in the design and why?

Student activities

1.    Introduce students to the rhinoceros using the information available in the Save the Rhinos “species of rhinos” pages 

2.    Ask the students to use descriptors to identify each rhino. •    Did they realize there were so many differences between rhino species and sub species? •    Which species have the most similarities? •    Which species are most different? •    What do they think could be the reason for these differences? 

3.    Ask the students to draw a block diagram (family tree) of the rhino species. Instruct the students to focus only on the African rhinos for this lesson: •    Using the descriptors the students used in 2 can they build the diagram to show all African rhino species, adding any interesting information to the diagram about characteristics that help them survive in their environment? •    This creates a good opportunity to explore what is meant by a species, and the ways in which organisms adapt to their environments.  You may wish to explore this with the class, although it is not explicitly covered here. 

4.    Introduce students to the Minecraft resource ‘WATR World Three – Running with Rhinos’, in which they will start outside a rhino orphanage. The orphanage is home to two baby white rhinos. •    Ask them to create a list of features, along with a justification for each (based on facts) about the needs and preferences of the white rhino that they find in the orphanage. This should include general requirements of the orphanage like a delivery space, veterinary clinic, staff lodgings and more. In terms of rhino preferences this should link to food, space, habitats and more. 

5.    Let the students see the short film ‘Raising an Orphan Rhino’ which discusses some of the work involved in nurturing an orphaned rhino to enable it to be released back into the wild. •    Is there anything else they would now like to add to their lists? •    Their list will be used as a checklist in the Minecraft Rhino Orphanage to ensure that their new build is equipped to care for the baby rhino.

6.    If there is anything missing, ask students to add it to the existing orphanage in keeping with the design and materials.

Performance expectations

1. Give your students the following brief to set the context for their next task: You are a Wildlife Welfare Officer for an international NGO. Your team have the task of building a rhino orphanage in another area of the map and so you are visiting nearby orphanages to see how they are providing adequate care and the necessary facilities for the rhinos in their care. For this purpose, you have been given a very rare ‘All Areas Pass’. Use this along with your checklist to ensure that the facilities and the people at the sanctuary are properly equipped to care for the animals while planning and designing your own. 

2. Ensure that each group have a copy of their list with them. Challenge them to: •    Use their list to help them check all areas of the site •    Speak with workers on site to add anything to their list that may be missing •    Ensure they continue to complete the ‘justification’ column for anything they add 

3. Upon completion of the investigation, ask the students to prepare a design for their own rhino orphanage. Using graph paper, they should create plans for the site and structures, including all the necessary elements they have listed from their explorations. 

4. Ask students to head to the new site allocation at coordinates X X X and begin to bring their orphanage to life; working from their plans and including all the aspects necessary to host a baby white rhino, orphaned nearby. 

5. Show the class the headline relating the threats to the White Rhino in the vicinity of the orphanage. ‘Spate of rhino poaching linked to demand in Far East’ (or browse newspaper websites to find more recent/ authentic headlines)

6. After the orphanage has been completed, have the groups prepare a presentation to the whole class, as a cross check that all of the needs have been considered and their orphanage is fit for the new arrival. Once they are satisfied that they have constructed a suitable site, ask students to introduce their new baby rhino (using the Polar Bear Spawn Egg), giving it a gender, name and history. 

7. Using the ‘Book and Quill’, students should create a diary of a staff member looking after their new rhino. They should include food menu, health requirements, fun activities, notable characteristics, growth, pictures and more. In this lesson, we would expect students to: 

• Demonstrate good research skills 

• Interact with Non-Player Characters (Rangers) 

• Show creativity in designing a new orphanage 

• Show willingness to both read and write as part of this lesson

 • Present well to the wider class 

• Express empathy for the subject at hand


  • Collaboration

  • Communication

  • Critical thinking


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