The Literacy Project

Pat the (Great) Cat, A Jaguar’s Journey: Students and Teachers Joining Hands Across Nations

The amazing new book, Pat the (Great) Cat, A Jaguar’s Journey is the result of a literacy project that brought together children from the United States and from Belize, Central America, to tell the true story of a jaguar who found his world forever changed as people came to share his land.

Students are empowered by the fact that the authors of the book are children just like themselves.

The subject is compelling. The jaguar is the only American Great Cat, and his world is disappearing. Enter a group of students from urban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Belize, Central America, who took on the task of creating international awareness of the plight of this very special animal. These students (ages 9–13), take readers on an extraordinary literacy journey that celebrates not only our American Great Cat, but the importance of joining hands across nations to impact our natural world through education and friendship.

In Pat the (Great) Cat, A Jaguar’s Journey, readers learn of the changing world of this very special Great Cat, and how difficult circumstances do not always mean a bad ending. Written side-by-side in English and Spanish, the book provides students and teachers with opportunities to explore how this powerful and important animal impacts core subjects of science, conservation, geography, history, ecology, social science, art, and the balance of nature.

As word of the book project spread, teachers and students in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida joined in, using the journey of this very special cat as a platform to explore their own study of “the wild world of the jaguar.”

One reason why the United States and Belize are great partners in Jaguar Conservation: His name is Pat the Cat!
The U.S. and Belize share a special “citizen”. His name is Pat the Cat, a “problem” jaguar from Honey Camp Lagoon, Belize, who got into trouble when he turned to killing cattle, as his homeland and prey base diminished when people moved in.

In his heartbreaking and heartwarming story, Pat’s long journey from Belize to Milwaukee provides the core from which children learn about the world of the elusive jaguar and his importance to our natural world. Jaguars belong in the wild, but Pat the Cat’s loss of freedom will not be in vain. Because of the work of these dedicated students, Pat’s story is being told around the world through the many lessons he has to share with children and adults alike.

The book project, designed by the non-profit organization SHARP Literacy Inc., presented the true story of Pat the Cat, a “down-on-his-luck” jaguar, to students in Milwaukee and Belize, challenging them to learn more about the jaguar, to discover and then write about its history, its importance to our ecosystems, and how to help to ensure that jaguars in the wild have a safe and healthy future.

The students took great pride in becoming authors and advocates. The resulting book is a vibrant example of how creativity, empathy and empowerment in children can be ignited by real-life stories that excite, engage and challenge them.

SHARP Literacy, Inc.
For more than 15 years, SHARP Literacy has used the visual arts as the tool to engage children in mastering critical literacy skills. To date, SHARP students have researched, written and illustrated eight books on topics that ignited their interest, tying to grade-level curriculum standards classroom teachers must cover.

As a partner to develop educational tools to engage and excite students, SHARP Literacy, with its tested track record in improving reading and writing skills for children in challenged, multilingual and urban areas of Milwaukee, provided the perfect leadership for the book project.

Key Collaborations
In addition to SHARP Literacy, key collaborations provided support to the team that helped to make this initiative a success. We are grateful to the Belize Ministry of Education, and also for the work being done by Panthera, The Belize Zoo, The Milwaukee County Zoo, SUNY Cortland and so many others, including teachers and principals who believe that their core curriculum requirements can be enhanced by stories that delight and challenge our children’s imagination and creativity.

This story sparks the imagination as a resource to teach the natural history of the Americas, the Maya, geography of our hemisphere, science, ecology and conservation, creative writing, art and beauty, all through the journey of a very special, and very real, jaguar.

Accomplishing Important Objectives
This project seeks to help children increase their literacy skills in a meaningful way, while learning not only about an important species, but also about the power of people working together across nations. We hope to help children create pathways to success through literacy just as the Jaguar Corridor Initiative creates pathways to the healthy survival of our American jaguar and all in the forests that depend upon him.

In the coming year we look forward to bringing resources to teachers and students through this website, as the next phase of this project unfolds. We welcome your thoughts and opinions.