Get ready to celebrate endangered species conservation!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conservation organizations around the country observe a special "holiday" on the third Friday in May: Endangered Species Day.
This year, 2013, is extra special because it commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.
Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day is a celebration of the nation's rarest plant and animal species.
"Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people young and old to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species and everyday actions that people can take to help protect our nation's disappearing wildlife and last remaining open space," explains the USFWS. "Protecting America's wildlife and plants today is a legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren, so that all Americans can experience the rich variety of native species that help to define our nation."
Every year, thousands of people across the United States celebrate Endangered Species Day at parks, wildlife refuges, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, libraries, schools, and community centers.
Here are some ways that you can celebrate this year:
1. Enter the 2013 Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest
Elementary, middle, and high school teachers are encouraged to have their students participate in the annual Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the International Child Art Foundation.
The contest is a great way for students grades K through 12 to learn about endangered species and express their knowledge, concern, and support through art. Young artists who are home schooled or participate in youth groups are also eligible to submit their artwork.
Artwork should highlight one or more land and/or ocean-dwelling endangered species found in the United States. Ideally, artwork will also include the species' habitat.
This year, 40 semifinalists selected by the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) will be judged by a panel of well-known artists, photographers and conservationists, including Wyland, Jack Hanna,David Littschwager, Susan Middletown, and Alice Tangerini.
Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12. Each winner will receive plaques and art supply gift packs. In addition, one grand prize winner will be honored with their name engraved on a special trophy and receive a round-trip flight to Washington, D.C. in May. The grand prize winner will also receive a special art lesson (via Skype) from Wyland, the artist.
Entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2013.
For more information, including judging criteria and an entry form, visit Endangered Species Day.
View the 2012 winning entires here.
2. Plan an Endangered Species Day Event
StopExtinction.org offers a handy Endangered Species Day Toolkit to help you plan your own event, including a step-by-step guide and materials to make your event fun and successful. Once you've planned an event, spread the word about it with the site's Endangered Species Day event registration form.
3. Create an Endangered Species Lesson Plan
Teachers and other educators can use the free Endangered Species Day Educational Materials, which includes lesson plans, handouts and factsheets.
4. Protect Endangered Species From Your Own Home
Learn about Everyday Ways to Help Endangered Species, and try one (or more) on Endangered Species Day.
5. Publicly Support Endangered Species on Facebook and Twitter
This Endangered Species Day, replace your profile picture on Facebook, Twitter, or Google with a picture of your favorite endangered species. Post or Tweet what you love about this species and the way(s) you support them.
6. Send An Endangered Species Day E-card
Send a free Endangered Species Day e-card to friends, family members, and everyone else you know.
7. Support Ongoing Endangered Species Act Protection