Lesson Plan

Fly Away! (The Safe Zone)

closeup of eagle nest, scattered in fur from previous prey
Eagles face many challenges once they leave Denali
NPS Photo


In "Fly Away! (The Safe Zone)," students will learn how researchers study migratory patterns.

Our extensive "Fly Away!" curricula unit is broken into twelve lesson plans, each taking 30 - 90 minutes to complete, and targeted at varying grade levels. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit - each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources. This is lesson 11 of the unit.


Guiding Question: What does migration mean for protecting the golden eagles that spend the breeding season in Denali National Park and Preserve?

Critical Content: The difficulties the National Park Service faces in protecting a species when it only spends part of the year in the park.

Student Objectives: Students will ...

  • record data on population changes
  • simulate natural processes as a class
  • graph tabular data
  • analyze data (tabular and graphed) and simulated processes to answer questions


Our extensive "Fly Away!" curricula unit is broken into twelve lesson plans, each taking 30 - 90 minutes to complete, and targeted at varying grade levels. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit, though some lessons do refer to one another and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.

The final lesson, "Fly Away! (Being a Biologist)" can be done independently, as a large research project, or as a final assessment after having done some, or all, of the other lessons in the unit.

Check out the other lessons:

Lesson 1: Exploring Migration
Lesson 2: Climate and Seasons
Lesson 3: Climate and Migration Patterns
Lesson 4: Spatial Migration Game
Lesson 5: Migration Cues
Lesson 6: Homing Experiment
Lesson 7: Bird Modeling
Lesson 8: Golden Eagle Life Cycle Diagram
Lesson 9: Which Way Do We Go?
Lesson 10: The Race South
Lesson 11: The Safe Zone
Lesson 12: Being a Biologist


For this game, students will need: paper, pencils, cones or some other way of marking off a safety zone, balls soft enough to throw at students, one copy of the Eagle Population Table for the class, one copy of the Safe Zone Worksheet for each student.



1. Assign one-half of the class to be golden eagles. The rest of the class is assigned to be some of the dangers that a golden eagle may encounter outside of the park e.g., power lines, poisoned food sources, human encroachment on prey habitat where eagles hunt. If you don't have much room, you may need to start with a higher percentage of eagles than hazards, as the eagles may be "easy targets".

2. Assign one student (or the teacher) to be the researcher and fill out the Eagle Population Table. This data will be used to graph the population changes after the game.

3. The safety zone represents Denali National Park and Preserve. The eagles start in the safety zone.

4. When the teacher yells, "migrate", the eagles need to run to the other side of the room or field, touch something and run back to Denali. Once they are outside of the park the "dangers" may throw balls at them.

5. If an eagle is hit, it dies and needs to wait on the sidelines.

6. Dangers throw balls until they are out, then they must collect their balls and return to their spot.

7. The eagles that make it back to the park the second time and every "year" after may breed and a new eagle is created. To create a new eagle, a "breeding eagle" calls the name of an eagle that has been killed by a danger. The new eagle gets a free walk to the safety zone.

8. Before the teachers yells "migrate" each year, the designated students should keep track of the number of eagles that have died on the worksheet and the number that are born. The dangers must have collected their balls and be ready to throw again.

9. If after 2-4 years the eagle population is dying off or overpopulating (there are not enough eagles on the sidelines to represent new eagles born), readjust the percent of the class that are eagles and hazards and/or use some of the adaptations below. Start again with a new table.

10. Once you have 10-20 "years" of data students should return to the classroom and graph the data and answer the discussion questions. You can make copies for the students of the Eagle Population Table or copy it to the board.

Discussion Questions: see the Safe Zone Worksheet.

1. If the class needed to start again because of overpopulation or a population crash, what does that tell us about eagle populations in nature?

2. What is extinction and what are the possible causes of extinction (discuss both hazards and habitat requirements?

3. How do hazards outside of a national park affect the population of a migratory species that spends part of its time within a national park?

4. How do national parks affect the population of migratory species outside of the parks?

5. What can parks and people do to help protect migratory species when they are not in a park?


1. Eagles have to pair up in order to breed (make new eagles).

2. New eagles cannot breed until they are three years old - they must make it back to the Safe Zone three times before they can breed (Denali golden eagles do not breed until they are four or five years old).

3. In a smaller area, hazards must touch the eagles flying past, rather than using balls, but the hazards can only pivot on one foot, they can't move from their spot.