Can Drones Stop Animal Killers?

The surprising way technology impacts poaching

Lexile Level: 800L / Guided Reading: Q / DRA Level: 40

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Learning Objective

Students will learn about the practice of using drones to stop poachers. This story is paired with the nonfiction feature on page 4. It also connects to the poem on page 32.

Featured Skill

Connecting Texts

Content-Area Connections

Social studies: geography
Science: animals, environment, technology

Key Skills

Connecting texts, vocabulary, descriptive details, key details, drawing conclusions, cause and effect, text features, text evidence, close reading, explanatory writing

Standards Correlations

This article and lesson support the following standards:

Common Core anchor standards: R.1, R.3, R.4, R.7, R.9, W.2, SL.1, L.4, L.6
TEKS: 3.2, 3.4, 3.13, 3. 3.20, 3.29, 3.30

Teaching Materials

Vocabulary Slideshow

Activity Sheets

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Close Reading
Reading Kit: Summarizing
Reading Kit: Connecting Texts

Lesson plan

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Explore Text Features/ Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)
• Direct students to the title and subhead, as well as the labels in the upper left corner of page 10 that say “Paired Texts” and “One topic, two texts.” Explain that for this story, the pairing is the nonfiction story that precedes it. (Be sure to read that story as well.) Ask students what the one topic is. (how poaching affects animals and how people are trying to stop it)
• Point out the photos on pages 11 and 12, and the map on page 13. Discuss the caption information.
• Some students may be familiar with the type of “fun” drones children play with. Explain that bigger drones are used by the military as a way to attack an enemy without putting a human pilot at risk.
• Call on a volunteer to read the Think and Read box on page 10 for the class.


Preview Vocabulary (15 minutes, activity sheet online)
• We have highlighted in bold the words that may be challenging and defined them on the page. Preview these words by projecting or distributing our vocabulary activity and completing it as a class.
• Highlighted words: darts, vicious, remedies, ruthless, conservationists, effective, essential

Reading and Unpacking the Text
First read: Students should read the article through one time for general comprehension.  
• Second read: Distribute the close-reading and critical-thinking questions. Preview them as a class.
• Have students read the story again, as a class or in small groups, pausing to answer the questions.


Close-Reading Questions (15 minutes)

• Read the first two paragraphs. Why does the author describe the drone this way? (descriptive details) The author gives a very detailed description of a flying drone that makes it seem mysterious. It might remind you of a sneaky animal.
• Read “The Problem With Poaching.” When elephants and rhinos are poached, how are their tusks and horns used? (key details) Most end up in China and Vietnam, where they’re used to make jewelry, trinkets, and health remedies (which may not work).
• In “Drones With Cameras,” why do poachers work so hard to get tusks and horns? (drawing conclusions) Poachers can make a lot of money by selling these items: up to $100,000 for a pair of tusks, and up to $400,000 for a pair of horns.
• Also in “Drones With Cameras,” how has the Air Shepherd program affected poaching? (cause and effect) There has been much less poaching in the areas using the Air Shepherd program. Now Air Shepherd is being asked to help other countries in Africa.
• Look at the map on page 13. Which three countries are using drones to fight poachers? (text features) Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
• “Can It Work?” explains the challenges of using drones. What are some of those challenges?  (text evidence) Answers may include: If poachers see a drone, they just go elsewhere; it takes time to train park rangers to use drones correctly; drones can be expensive, and they run out of power after only a few hours.


Critical-Thinking Questions (10 minutes)
•  Think about “How to Save a Baby Elephant” and “Can Drones Stop Animal Killers?” What are ways that humans are helping elephants and rhinos? What are ways that they are harming these animals?  (compare and contrast) Humans help animals by protecting them from poachers. In Ishanga’s case, she was rescued and brought back to health by humans. But humans also can harm animals when they hunt them.




Connecting Texts
• Distribute our connecting texts activity, creating a Venn diagram.
• Discuss the task in the Think and Write box on page 13. Then have students complete the task in class or as homework.

Teaching Extras

The Magnitude

You might ask your students to guess the number of elephants killed by poachers between the two-year period of 2011-13. The answer is staggering: nearly 100,000.

Status Symbol

In our story, we explain that elephant and rhino tusks are used for jewelry and statues and trinkets. But here’s a fact that didn’t make it into the article: They’re becoming a status symbol of sorts. In Vietnam, people show off how wealthy they are by sipping expensive drinks that contain ground-up rhino tusks.

Drone Safety

Some of your students, or their parents, may have their own drones. You can start a discussion about whether they’re appropriate for children, and under which circumstances (parental supervision, for one thing!). The FAA created this holiday-themed video for kids who got drones as a gift—it might be worth a look to go over the basic safety guidelines.

A Diverse Continent

In the stories in this issue, we focus on a part of Africa that may seem familiar to students: Wild savannah and remote areas. However, we think it’s important to make the point that there’s a lot more to Africa than that: There are big cities like Lagos in Nigeria. There are many different climates, as detailed here. Remind your students that Africa is huge and diverse!

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