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Looking for Miza: Lesson Plans


Go Gorillas (Grades 6-8)


  • Language Arts (writing; reading; listening and speaking)
  • Life Skills (Thinking and Reasoning; Working with Others; Self Regulation)
  • Science (Life Science; Science in Personal and Social Perspectives; History and Nature of Science)

  • Students review why the mountain gorilla is endangered, and the importance of saving the species from extinction.
  • Students brainstorm how they can create and/or support solutions that protect the mountain gorillas, their environment, and the people around them.
  • Students create action plans to organize their projects.
  • Students begin service-learning projects to save the mountain gorilla.


  • "Save the Mountain Gorillas" YouTube video created by Canadian fifth graders (see procedure section for link)
  • Online articles about individual kids working to save the mountain gorillas and famous conservationists (see procedure section for links)
  • Student Activity 3: Go Gorillas (PDF)


The most serious threats facing the roughly 720 remaining mountain gorillas are habitat loss, hunting and poaching, disease, and war. Saving the mountain gorilla and its environment does much more than preserve this human-like animal for generations to come—it helps preserve Earth’s biodiversity and maintains the functions of ecosystems.

You and your students can start a service-learning project to save the mountain gorilla and contribute to the wellness of the planet through the Owen and Mzee Foundation’s Save the Gorillas Campaign.

The goal of the Owen and Mzee Foundation is to "encourage children to participate in philanthropic activities through direct engagement." The Foundation has created the Save the Gorillas Campaign and has funded a Clinton Global Initiative to protect the mountain gorillas. To save the gorilla's habitat from destruction due to charcoal cooking to make charcoal for fuel, the group is supporting efforts to test a possible solution: the use of portable gas stoves as alternative fuel sources for people in the area. Your students’ projects can help fund this organization's conservation projects and other efforts.

Philanthropy involves much more than simply donating money. Its Greek origin means "loving people" and the word can be defined as "the giving of one's time, talent, or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good." Supporting philanthropic efforts can empower children as they see how they can make a difference.

A service-learning project to raise awareness of the mountain gorilla and fund solutions to save it should follow four basic steps:
  1. Educate students about the issue.
  2. Create an action plan.
  3. Implement the plan.
  4. Reflect on the work and celebrate success.

As your students work to save the mountain gorilla, they will be following the tradition of a long line of conservationists who devoted much time to researching and raising awareness about the majestic species:

  • In 1959, George Schaller traveled to what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo to study mountain gorillas in the wild. He is considered the first scientist to have done this. He studied various other endangered animals, including the giant panda and the antelope, and wrote several books based on his research.
  • Schaller's work led Dian Fossey to begin studying mountain gorillas in the wild in 1963. She researched them for twenty-two years until she was found murdered at her campsite. Fossey's work greatly contributed to the protection of the mountain gorilla. Her organization, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, continues efforts to save the species.
  • Richard Leakey, a world-renowned paleontologist and conservationist, has made significant contributions to the study of human evolution. His parents, Louis and Mary Leakey, also were famous scientists. In 2004, Leakey created an organization called WildlifeDirect. Through its Web site, WildlifeDirect gives rangers in the field opportunities to report what is happening to endangered animals, and seeks donations from people around the world to support solutions.
  • Jane Goodall is a conservationist and primatologist best known for her studies of chimpanzees. Her desire to work with African wildlife began in her childhood. In 1957, she worked as an assistant to Louis Leakey and studied chimpanzees for forty years after. Goodall has written several children's books about wildlife and founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation.

There is not much time, but there is much hope. Your class project will help save the mountain gorillas from extinction and also teach students valuable lessons about the importance of working to make the world a better place.

1. Begin by showing the students "Save the Mountain Gorillas," a YouTube video that was created by Canadian fifth graders, at . Note that this video focuses on a specific threat to the mountain gorillas that you have likely not discussed—the illegal and irresponsible mining of coltan, a mineral used to make cell phones. Explain that illegally mining coltan in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) causes much environmental damage and contributes to one of the main threats facing the remaining gorillas—habitat loss—just as illegal charcoal production does. Have students review other threats to the mountain gorillas and their habitat, and why protecting the species benefits the world.

2. Ask: How does this video work toward a solution to save the mountain gorillas? Who do you think created the video? Share that fifth graders in Canada created the video as part of their campaign to collect 500 old cell phones from teachers and students at their school. The old cell phones can be used to create new ones, reducing the need for the DRC's coltan, thus helping to preserve the gorillas' environment. Emphasize to students that just as these fifth graders are making a difference, they can too.

3. Have students review the solution that WildlifeDirect and the Owen and Mzee Foundation support—providing people living near Africa's mountain gorillas with portable gas stoves so they will no longer need to destroy the forests to make coal for fuel. Challenge students: What can we do to raise awareness of the problems facing mountain gorillas and raise money needed for the solutions? (Ideas may include holding a school-wide gorilla assembly to present pictures and facts; hosting a trivia night to share important facts about the mountain gorillas with the community; creating an art exhibit with student paintings and sculptures of gorillas and their environment; encouraging people to sign the gorilla pledge at ; talent shows; create a ringtone; write songs a or poems; film a video; and other events to raise money to support solutions.)

4. To encourage students to continue to brainstorm ideas for their campaign, create six groups of students and distribute one of the following articles to each group. Each article profiles one gorilla conservation advocate, many of whom are primatologists scientists who study primates such as the gorilla and the chimpanzee.
"Local Girl Raising Funds for Gorillas,"
"George Schaller,"
"Dian Fossey,"
"Richard Leakey,"
"Jane Goodall,"     

5. In groups, have students read their article and discuss how the project mentioned in it helps the mountain gorillas, or how the conservationist profiled has contributed to efforts to save the species. Then distribute Student Activity 3: Go Gorillas (PDF). Have student groups complete the organizer with ideas for a class or school campaign to help save the gorillas.  

6. When students have finished, have each group share its ideas with the class. Have your class vote on which three projects to start, in order to help save the gorillas. Or, you may decide to get the whole school involved in one project.

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