The polar bear: Educating little children to save big bears

The polar bear: Educating little children to save big bears

7 December 2018

The Polar Bear educational centre opened in Norilsk two months ago. The centre was created with assistance from the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, whose specialists acted as academic advisors and presented all necessary materials for developing the educational programme.


Olesya Kuzhel, coordinator of the Save the Polar Bear programme of the Project Office for Arctic Development (PORA), and Natalya Bulyukina, teacher at the Polar Bear centre, spoke on the project’s aims and features.


The polar bear, as a true symbol of Russia’s Arctic zone, has long been a Red Data Book species. Today, Russia is actively developing the Arctic, and humans encounter polar bears more and more often, Olesya Kuzhel said.


“We expect a greater number of bears to be shot and killed by people who feel they have no other choice. Today, such situations occur mostly through the fault of people who do not know how to conduct themselves,” she said.


The project aims to raise environmental awareness in children, who learn about this majestic animal, its life and feeding habits, as well as rules of behaviour in the polar bear habitat and when encountering the animal so that they could avoid any unnecessary confrontations.


“We have made a decision to work with children because the earlier environmental education begins, the better the result. We are promoting environmental awareness,” Kuzhel noted.


In addition parents can be influenced through their children’s interest, she explained.


“We want people to understand that buying a polar bear pelt as living room décor is not only illegal but also unethical and harmful for the Arctic’s ecosystem,” she added.


During the classes, held in the form of games, children learn not only about the polar bear but also the entire Arctic ecosystem, the bear’s surroundings, and its neighbours.


“For one class, we went on an expedition to learn more about the exciting world of the Arctic. The children together ‘packed a suitcase’ and discussed what was necessary to take with them and why they were taking certain items,” Natalya Bulyukina, teacher at the Polar Bear centre, said.


The game format makes it possible to present information in terms that kids can easily understand and with examples from their personal experience, Bulyukina noted. Along with learning more abstract information, children also satisfy their curiosity, develop important skills, such as a scientific way of thinking as well as project and group work, and learn how to use gadgets that are not only fun but practical too.