Cheetah Challenges


When wild animals are sick, injured, or orphaned, compassionate humans often arrive on the scene to provide assistance. Simon King did just that when he rescued two three-month-old cheetah orphans. In this lesson, students will observe how a team of people from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy assisted one of the orphans after he had been injured in a fight. They will research how animal rehabilitation programs function and evaluate how well the programs work. Students will also create a blog to share information about cheetahs and the challenges they face.
Grade level: Grades 9 – 12
Subject areas: Science, Language Arts
Learning objectives:

Students will be able to do the following:

  • Students will be able to do the following:
  • Synthesize information from a variety of sources and publish it for an audience.
  • Analyze a situation and write an evaluation on the topic.


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Level III [Grade 9-12]
Language Arts
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
5. Uses strategies to address writing to different audiences (e.g., includes explanations and definitions according to the audience’s background, age, or knowledge of the topic, adjusts formality of style, considers interests of potential readers)

6. Uses strategies to adapt writing for different purposes (e.g., to explain, inform, analyze, entertain, reflect, persuade)

7. Writes expository compositions (e.g., synthesizes and organizes information from first- and second-hand sources, including books, magazines, computer data banks, and the community; uses a variety of techniques to develop the main idea [names, describes, or differentiates parts; compares or contrasts; examines the history of a subject; cites an anecdote to provide an example; illustrates through a scenario; provides interesting facts about the subject]; distinguishes relative importance of facts, data, and ideas; uses appropriate technical terms and notations)
Standard 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)
Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)

2. Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of informational texts (e.g., textbooks, biographical sketches, letters, diaries, directions, procedures, magazines, essays, primary source historical documents, editorials, news stories, periodicals, catalogs, job-related materials, schedules, speeches, memoranda, public documents, maps)

4. Uses a variety of criteria to evaluate the clarity and accuracy of information (e.g., author’s bias, use of persuasive strategies, consistency, clarity of purpose, effectiveness of organizational pattern, logic of arguments, reasoning, expertise of author, propaganda techniques, authenticity, appeal to friendly or hostile audience, faulty modes of persuasion)
Life Sciences

Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment
1. Knows how the interrelationships and interdependencies among organisms generate stable ecosystems that fluctuate around a state of rough equilibrium for hundreds or thousands of years (e.g., growth of a population is held in check by environmental factors such as depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss due to larger numbers of predators or parasites)

2. Knows how the amount of life an environment can support is limited by the availability of matter and energy and the ability of the ecosystem to recycle materials

5. Knows ways in which humans can alter the equilibrium of ecosystems, causing potentially irreversible effects (e.g., human population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, and atmospheric changes)
ISTE Technology Standards

National Educational Technology Standards
GRADES 9 – 12

Performance Indicators:
All students should have opportunities to demonstrate the following performances.
Prior to completion of Grade 12 students will:

  • Identify capabilities and limitations of contemporary and emerging technology resources and assess the potential of these systems and services to address personal, lifelong learning, and workplace needs. (2)
  • Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publication, communication, and productivity. (4, 5, 6)
  • Select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision making in content learning. (4, 5)
  • Collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works. (4, 5, 6)

Procedures for Teachers
Introductory Activity


The purpose of this activity is to pique students’ interest and to build background knowledge on cheetahs.
Time for completion: 15 minutes
Have students visit the “Cheetah Chat” section of the Smithsonian National Zoo website and listen to the “Spots and Speed” podcast. The “Spots and Speed” podcast may be found at the following location:
After listening to the podcast, involve the students in a short discussion about what they learned. The following questions may be used to begin the discussion:

  • What was the most interesting piece of information you learned about cheetahs?
  • Did the podcast raise any questions about the cheetah that you would like to have answered? If so, where might you go to have your questions answered?
  • Do you have any additional information about the cheetah that wasn’t mentioned in the podcast? Can you share this information with the class?
  • Do you think podcasts are an effective way of sharing information?
  • Do you think the source of the information for this podcast is reliable? Why or why not?

Activity One
Time for completion: Two weeks – A portion of each day allotted to working on the blog, one homework assignment
Teacher Note: In preparing for this activity, you may need to check your school district’s guidelines and acceptable use policies as they relate to the use of the Internet. Determine if you need to inform parents and acquire parental permission before beginning the activity. Review school policies and guidelines with your students. Discuss the importance of not posting complete names, e-mail addresses, or references to the location of the school or homes. Clearly outline the consequences for not following these policies. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, familiarize yourself with blogging sites. Sites like provide free blogging tools. The Edublogs plugin allows you to make your class blog private to all but registered and logged in Edublogs users.

  1. Explain to students that they are going to research the problems that cheetahs face in the wild and in captivity. They will use the information to create a blog.
  2. Pass out the “What’s Up with the Cheetah?” organizer. Divide the class into small groups. Assign each group one of the topics listed in the organizer.
  3. Over a period of two weeks, provide time for students to write their blogs and time to share their information with other groups of students.
  4. Ask groups to read all of the other groups’ posts and write down a minimum of two questions or clarifications for each group’s blog content.
  5. After two weeks, have students write a report entitled “What Lies Ahead for the Cheetah?” This report should include basic information about the cheetah, challenges that cheetahs face in the wild and in captivity, and a conclusion on what they predict the future holds for the cheetah, as well as recommendations for changes that could be made to help improve the cheetahs’ chances for survival.

Activity Two
Time for completion: Two – 50 minute class periods and one homework assignment
In this activity, students will research the role of animal rehabilitation facilities and animal preserves.

  1. Watch “Cheetah Orphans” from 20:36 to26:02. Discuss the challenges the team faced when rehabilitating Toki.
  2. Tell students that they are going to research how animal rehabilitation programs function. Pass out and discuss the “What is Animal Rehabilitation?” organizer. Students may work individually or in small groups to complete this activity. After students have answered the questions regarding animal rehabilitation programs, review the information that students collected.
  3. Send students to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy website to read about the real life experiences of other orphans at this conservancy in Kenya.
  4. Ask students to reflect on the information they have read on the topic of rehabilitation and write a one-page answer to the question “Does rehabilitation of sick, injured, and orphaned animals work?” Ask students to use examples from their reading in their responses. After students have finished writing their responses, you may choose to read aloud the article “Does Rehabilitation of Orphaned Animals Work?” on the Nature website and discuss how their responses compare to the article.

Assessment Suggestions

The Cheetah blog and the “Does rehabilitation of sick, injured, and orphaned animals work?” response may be used to evaluate these activities.
Extension Activity

Investigate what animal rehabilitation programs exist in your state or community. If possible, invite a local animal rehabber to talk at your school.
About the Author

Laurel Blaine is founder of Digital Narratives LLC, a curriculum design company. In addition to content development, Digital Narratives also works with young people to enhance their literacy skills as they explore the power of digital storytelling. Over the past decade, Laurel has created educational materials for a diverse range of clients including The Kennedy Center, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Learning Matters/Listen Up! and Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

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