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Stratford Elementary's First Graders Take a Stand for Tiger Beetles

By Melissa Manuel on 27. February 2024
Melissa Manuel

In Los Gatos California, the first-grade students of Stratford Elementary School are making a big difference for invertebrates. This winter the students embarked on a signature science project to study endangered species in their community. The students chose an invertebrate to focus on, the Ohlone tiger beetle. The students set out to not only learn about this tiger beetle but to take action to protect them.


Green and brown iridescent Ohlone tiger beetle on the ground
The Ohlone tiger beetle (Cicindela ohlone) is an endangered insect living in Santa Cruz County, California. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)


The project incorporated various learning activities to deepen students' understanding of endangered species conservation. First, they researched the Ohlone tiger beetle and its protected status, guided by experts like Mr. David Pearson, who shared invaluable insights into the world of tiger beetles. Pearson, a professor at Arizona State University, is known as an expert on tiger beetles. His book, “A Field Guide to Tiger Beetles in the United States and Canada," includes information and photo illustrations of more than 200 North American tiger beetle species. Endemic to California, the Ohlone tiger beetle only occurs in coastal Santa Cruz County. The species was only discovered and described in the early 1990s. On October 3rd, 2001, the Ohlone tiger beetle was declared an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.


Crayon drawling of tiger beetles, trees, the sun, and the sky that says "Save the tiger beetle"
Student Megan's drawing of tiger beetles depicts their green bodies with brown patches on their thorax. (Drawing: Megan, Stratford Elementary School.) 


Next, the students took their lessons outside their classroom to engage their community in actions to protect tiger beetles. The students organized a campus clean-up day, raising awareness about the beetle's plight by removing litter from their school’s playground with their families. This hands-on approach empowered students to become advocates for change while reinforcing important lessons about environmental stewardship. Teacher Shannon Gartin commented, “The students learned that people can be the problem to animals becoming endangered and so people need to be the solution to the problem, and if we all work together, we can absolutely make a difference.”


Several students pick up litter on the playground and place it into paper bags
The symbolic playground cleanup demonstrated how teamwork can make a difference. (Photo: Stratford Elementary School.) 


Ahead of their clean-up day, the students recruited sponsors for their event to pledge funds towards an environmental non-profit. We were so honored that the students chose to donate their funds to Xerces! Together with their teachers and families, the students worked diligently to spread awareness and raised over $5,000. Parents praised the project's integration of learning and community engagement, noting how it sparked conversations beyond the classroom. Teachers commended students for their empathy and determination to address the plight of tiger beetles, hoping that this project would leave a lasting impact on their lives.


Student worksheets stapled to a wall that describe students' perceptions of the project
Students demonstrated their learning throughout the process, all while raising awareness for a local endangered insect and fundraising for general insect conservation. (Photo: Stratford Elementary School.) 


If you feel inspired to take up the cause for invertebrates by hosting a fundraiser, we encourage you to check out the Xerces Society’s peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Need ideas? Please reach out to us at [email protected] to discuss.


Melissa joined Xerces in 2022 as the Donor Engagement Specialist, working with the Membership team. She is a "retired" young farmer with over a decade of expertise in urban farming, agroforestry, garden design and education. Before joining Xerces, she worked as a horticulturist at Leach Botanical Garden. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Portland State University and has worked with a number of environmental non-profit groups throughout her career.

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