What Do You Do with an Orphaned Cheetah?

What Do You Do with an Orphaned Cheetah?


When filmmaker Simon King rescued two three-month old cheetah orphans, he accepted a daunting responsibility filled with the emotional and strategic challenges of teaching wild animals how to survive in the wild. In this lesson, students will engage their critical thinking skills as they work in teams to brainstorm possible techniques for teaching baby cheetahs what they need to learn to survive in the wild. Students will also predict what happened to the abandoned cheetah orphan after the program was filmed and compare their predictions with what really happened.
Grade level: Grades 3 – 5
Subject areas: Science, Language Arts
Learning objectives:

Students will be able to do the following:

  • Analyze a problem and develop techniques to help solve the problem.
  • Consider the complexities of a situation and predict what will happen in the future.
  • Write a news story based on their predictions of what will happen in the future.


Bookmark the following sites


Level III [Grade 9-12]
Language Arts
Standard 1. Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Level II [Grade: 3-5]

6. Uses strategies (e.g., adapts focus, point of view, organization, form) to write for a variety of purposes (e.g., to inform, entertain, explain, describe, record ideas)

7. Writes expository compositions (e.g., identifies and stays on the topic; develops the topic with simple facts, details, examples, and explanations; excludes extraneous and inappropriate information; uses structures such as cause-and-effect, chronology, similarities and differences; uses several sources of information; provides a concluding statement)
Standard 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
8. Uses strategies to compile information into written reports or summaries (e.g., incorporates notes into a finished product; includes simple facts, details, explanations, and examples; draws conclusions from relationships and patterns that emerge from data from different sources; uses appropriate visual aids and media)
Life Sciences

Standard 5. Understands the structure and function of cells and organisms
1. Knows that plants and animals progress through life cycles of birth, growth and development, reproduction, and death; the details of these life cycles are different for different organisms

2. Knows that living organisms have distinct structures and body systems that serve specific functions in growth, survival, and reproduction (e.g., various body structures for walking, flying, or swimming)

Standard 6.
Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment

2. Knows that the transfer of energy (e.g., through the consumption of food) is essential to all living organisms

3. Knows that an organism’s patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that organism’s environment (e.g., kinds and numbers of other organisms present, availability of food and resources, physical characteristics of the environment)
Life Skills
Working with Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group

Level IV [Grade: K-12]
1. Knows the behaviors and skills that contribute to team effectiveness

2. Works cooperatively within a group to complete tasks, achieve goals, and solve problems

4. Demonstrates respect for others’ rights, feelings, and points of view in a group

5. Identifies and uses the individual strengths and interests of others to accomplish team goals

8. Evaluates the overall progress of a group toward a goal

9. Contributes to the development of a supportive climate in groups

10. Actively listens to the ideas of others and asks clarifying questions
ISTE Technology Standards

National Educational Technology Standards

GRADES 3 – 5

Performance Indicators:
All students should have opportunities to demonstrate the following performances.

Prior to completion of Grade 5 students will:

Use telecommunications efficiently and effectively to access remote information, communicate with others in support of direct and independent learning, and pursue personal interests. (4)

Use technology resources (e.g., calculators, data collection probes, videos, educational software) for problem solving, self-directed learning, and extended learning activities. (5, 6)

Procedures for Teachers
Introductory Activities

The purpose of these activities is to pique students’ interest and to build background knowledge on the continent of Africa and the challenges that cheetahs face in surviving in the wild.
Time for completion: 25 minutes
Introductory Activity One
Teacher Note: In preparation for this activity, make sure that Google Earth software is downloaded onto your computer. If it isn’t, you may download it for free at http://earth.google.com/

  1. Send students to the Google Earth website. After opening Google Earth, ask students to locate the continent of Africa. After students have located Africa, ask them to zero in on the country of Kenya. Once they have found Kenya, ask them to find the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. Ask students to share their observations regarding this area of the world. Tell students that the activities that they are going to complete are based on a real-life incident that took place in this area of the world.Teacher Note: Depending on the number of computers you have access to, this activity may be completed as an individual, small-group, or whole-class activity.

Introductory Activity Two

  1. Send students to the “Toki’s Survival Challenge” section of the Nature website. Ask students to help Toki navigate through the interactive. After students have spent 5 to 10 minutes investigating the interactive, ask students to share what they learned about the challenges that a cheetah faces in his or her environment.

Activity One
In this activity, students will work together in small groups to brainstorm possible ways to help an orphaned baby cheetah hone its skills to survive in the wilderness.
Time for completion: Two to Three 50-minute class periods

  1. Begin by watching “Cheetah Orphans” from the beginning to 01:26. After watching this section of the program, involve students in a brainstorming session to create a list of the things that an orphaned cheetah would have to learn in order to survive in the wild. Record students’ answers on the board.
  2. Divide the class into small groups. Discuss with students the idea that people often need to create solutions for unique problems or situations that they have never encountered before. Touch on the idea that new inventions, cures for diseases, educational programs, etc., are often the result of people working to find a solution to a problem.
  3. Pass out and discuss the “Cheetah Survival Solutions” organizer. It might be particularly important to review the brainstorming guidelines outlined in the organizer. Explain to students that they are going to work in teams to come up with ideas and techniques to teach the orphaned cheetahs the skills they will need to survive in the wild.
  4. After students have completed the assignment, provide time for each group to share its ideas with the class.
  5. After all of the groups have finished sharing their ideas, watch the “Cheetah Orphans” program from 01:37 to 08:39 and from 11:09 to 12:55 to see how Simon King taught survival skills to Toki and Sambu. You may also visit the “Cheetah Learning Checklist” section of the Nature website to learn about the techniques that some people have used to help cheetahs learn new skills.
  6. Ask students to fill out the “Cheetah Survival Solutions Presentation Group Self-Assessment” handout. Meet with each group to discuss its assessment.

Activity Two
In this activity, students will predict what happened to Toki after the show ended.
Time for completion: Two 50-minute class periods

  1. Begin by watching “Cheetah Orphans” from the beginning to 11:33, from 13:34 to 17:05, and from 46:41 to the end. (It is not necessary to watch the beginning segment of the program if you watched it during Activity One. You may, however, choose to refresh students’ memories of what happened in the beginning of the program.)
  2. Involve the students in a discussion about what they think happened to Toki after the program was filmed. Record students’ predictions on the board.
  3. After students have finished making their predictions, go to the “Update of Toki” section of the Nature website. Compare students’ predictions with what really happened to Toki.
  4. Ask students to contemplate what they think Toki’s life will be like four years from today. Tell students that they are going to create a news story that describes Toki’s life in the future. Explain to students that the report should include the following:
    • General background information on Cheetahs and the challenges they face in the wild
    • Specific background information on Toki’s unique history
    • Description of Toki’s surroundings
    • An update on the specifics of Toki’s current situation based on what you predict will happen to Toki
  5. Before students begin, pass out and review the “Toki News Update” rubric.Teacher Note: You may choose to have the news story be completed as a newspaper article, or a television or radio report.

Assessment Suggestions

The “Cheetah Survival Solutions Presentation Group Self-Assessment” handout may be used to assess Activity One.
The “Toki News Update” rubric may be used to assess Activity Two.
Extension Activity

Further explore the kinds of technology used to track Toki by introducing 3-D Tracking software to your students. You can use a mobile phone or PDA, along with a GPS receiver, to record and view students’ movements on Google Earth or Google Maps.
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.

  • mo man


  • Tanner Plain

    We are a gaggle of volunteers and starting a brand new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with useful information to work on. You have performed a formidable activity and our entire community can be grateful to you.

  • Cristobal Harari

    We usually do first come first served but give us a call and we can working something out 401 849 1049

Inside This Lesson

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.