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Big Cat Week Spirit Comes to a Big Apple School

Dereck and Beverly Joubert presenting to 4th and 5th grade students at P.S. 205. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene
Dereck and Beverly Joubert presenting to fourth- and fifth-grade students at P.S. 205. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene

By Taylor Maddalene

This year marks the seventh annual Big Cat Week on Nat Geo WILD and it has been a ROAR-ing success so far!

In the spirit of celebration, our Big Cats Initiative co-founders and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert paid a special visit to students in New York last week.

On Thursday, February 16th, P.S. 205 the Fiorello Laguardia School (a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative Sister School in the Bronx) welcomed the famed filmmakers and conservationists for a special presentation and Q&A session with students.

The Jouberts in the P.S. 205 auditorium. Photo Credit: Colby Bishop
The Jouberts in the P.S. 205 auditorium. Photo Credit: Colby Bishop

By participating in the Big Cats Initiative Sister School Program (BCISSP), P.S. 205 is paired with Gudigwa Primary School in Botswana to create a cross-cultural exchange about the decline of big cat populations in the wild and the important role they play in the ecosystem. Students in both countries learn about big cats and what can be done for conservation, and then use photos, letters, and virtual assemblies to connect and share information with each other and with Big Cats Initiative explorers.

Students from Gudigwa Primary School in Botswana celebrate new school supplies as part of BCISSP. Photo Credit: Beverly and Dereck Joubert
Students from Gudigwa Primary School in Botswana celebrate new school supplies as part of BCISSP. Photo Credit: Beverly and Dereck Joubert

P.S. 205 was one of four foundation schools that started the BCISSP in the 2013-2014 school year. Since the program’s inception, they have raised $1,500 for Gudigwa Primary School. These funds have contributed towards conservation camps for students and critical school supplies—including the school’s first computer and color printer!

The service learning model of the program enhances the global perspective of students, increases knowledge and awareness for big cat protection, builds school spirit, and provides a unique opportunity for students to have a personal connection with other students and explorers all over the world.

Students from Botswana attend a Conservation Camp with the Jouberts’ organization. Photo Credit: David Murray
Students from Botswana attend a Conservation Camp with the Jouberts’ organization. Photo Credit: David Murray

The Jouberts were greeted at P.S. 205 by a small group of student council leaders and then spoke to nearly four hundred fourth- and fifth-grade students. They presented big cat fun facts, the history, purpose, and progress of the Big Cats Initiative, and gave insight into life for students at Gudigwa Primary School.

As National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, conservationists, and filmmakers, the Jouberts also showed exclusive clips from their new film Soul of the Cat that premiered as part of Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week. The Jouberts reminded the students at P.S. 205 that even people that live far from big cat populations can make a difference.

After the presentation the Jouberts met with a small group of students in the school Library to discuss Big Cat questions and conservation issues. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene
After the presentation the Jouberts met with a small group of students in the school Library to discuss Big Cat questions and conservation issues. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene

The students of P.S. 205 presented the Jouberts with gifts and letters to bring back to the students at Gudigwa Primary School as part of the BCISSP cultural exchange. The explorers, the students, the teachers, and the faculty were all energized for big cat conservation and eager to continue all of their great work with BCISSP! The presentation ended with an auditorium-wide ROAR for big cats! See (and hear) it below:

As part of Big Cat Week, BCISSP sister schools throughout the U.S. and U.K. are connecting with their Big Cats Initiative explorers and sister schools in Kenya, Botswana, and Tanzania. Keep an eye out for more program updates and blog posts on Cat Watch and the BCI website.

The Jouberts received postcards from the students of P.S. 205 for the students of Gudigwa Primary School. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene
The Jouberts received postcards from the students of P.S. 205 for the students of Gudigwa Primary School. Photo Credit: Taylor Maddalene

The National Geographic Big Cats Initiative is a long-term commitment by the National Geographic Society to halt the decline of big cats in the wild. This global initiative actively supports on-the-ground research and conservation projects to protect the planet’s big cat species all over the world. Learn more by visiting the BCI website and tune in to Big Cat Week 2017 on Nat Geo WILD to see your favorite felines in action!

BCISSP is an interactive, community service learning opportunity that is open to all schools. Please visit the website to learn more and get your school involved.