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  • This article asks us to consider why we like some animals more than others and whether this matters when it comes to conservation.

    Biologist Sophie Fern directs our attention to attributes such as an animal’s size, colour, distinctiveness and cuteness, and the roles these play in how we regard the animal. She also notes that it’s hard to get excited about animals that we’ve never met, and unless the animal is in the media, we may not give it much thought!

    Why does this matter? The article reports that New Zealand has over 4,000 species of animals and plants that are endangered or threatened. All plants and animals have a role to play in their ecosystems.

    This issue is useful for discussions about ethics in science and why and how we rank the animals we are working to conserve. It also supports the nature of science strand – Participating and contributing – as students explore and act on issues and questions that link their science learning to their daily living.

    Teacher support material

    Check your school resource area for the article from the 2019 level 2 Connected journal Wild Discoveries, download it as a Google slide presentation from Tāhūrangi or order it from the Ministry of Education.

    The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from Tāhūrangi (Word and PDF files). It has two activity ideas – Media matters and Exploring ecosystems – along with resource links.

    Related content

    Author Sophie Fern is a conservation storyteller and a champion for our less-known native species. Read more about Sophie in this article. It is part of the series In Her Nature: New Zealand women changing the way we connect with the world around us.

    The Hub has an Ethics thinking toolkit and there are several related articles on the Science Learning Hub designed specifically to support teachers in exploring ethical thinking with their students. These include Frameworks for ethical analysis and Teaching ethics.

    Ethics and bird conservation – case study provides an example of introducing ethical thinking into the classroom, year 5 and 6 students considered the ethics of spending money and effort on conservation, focusing on the takahē.

    There are also a number of teacher PLD sessions related to this topic. These include Ethics and primary students – case study, Ethics in science planner and Managing classroom discussions.

    Check out our entire range of Connected articles here. We’ve curated them by topic and concepts.

    Activity ideas

    The Science Learning Hub has curated a range of contextualised ethics resources under the topic Ethics and science. These include resources such as Ethics in bird conservation, Ethics and whaling and Ethics in conservation science.

    Useful links

    Listen to this interview with Sophie Fern on RadioNZ about Are New Zealand's cute and cuddly native species being favoured over those less charimatic?

    The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email


    The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.

      Published 19 March 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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