Our "Bears of Glacier Bay" curricula unit is divided into three lesson plans, each taking one class session to complete. They are part of our "Middle School Scientists" series that explore the fascinating research and resources of Glacier Bay National Park.
Check out the other lessons:
Brown bears and black bears are closely related, but have many different traits that help distinguish the two species. Brown bears are usually larger than black bears and have a prominent shoulder hump, subdued ears, and longer, straighter claws. Their long claws are useful in digging roots, but not effective to climb trees. Black bears lack a shoulder hump, have prominent ears, and short, curved claws. They live in forested areas where climbing trees is their best method of defense. A large male brown bear may weigh up to 1400 pounds compared to 300 pounds for a large male black bear. Both have an exceptionally acute sense of smell, while their eyesight is similar to that of humans. One of the most distinguishable features of both species is their face profile. Black bears have a straight face profile and brown bears have a more dish shaped profile.
Color is not a reliable key in differentiating these bears because black and brown bears have many color phases. Black bears can range in color from jet black and cinnamon to white, while brown bear colors range from dark brown to very light blond.
Both brown bears and black bears spend the winter months in a state of hibernation called torpor. They enter this dormancy period in late fall when food availability drops. In the spring, bears emerge to feed on the abundance of food available.
Through careful observation and scientific research, park biologists gain an understanding of how bears interact with their environment, each other, and humans. This knowledge allows them to make the best management decisions to protect bears, humans, and the habitat.
There are a few handouts to complete this lesson.
Additional Materials Needed: Student journals, pencils, internet access
Students answers the questions provided before viewing the video. Download
A chart for students to list measurements of black and brown bears and to compare to their own measurements. Download
Measuring Up Chart for Teachers. This guide has the correct answers for teachers to check students answers in the Measuring Up Chart. Download
Students test their identification knowledge of black bears and brown bears. Download
Bear Photo Gallery Teacher Key. This worksheet has the correct answers for teachers to check student's work. Download
The entire lesson plan is available here.
Pass out the Bears Video and Vocabulary Sheet to each student and give them a few minutes to answer the questions prior to watching the video. Show students the video Bears in Glacier Bay. The video highlights current research in Glacier Bay National Park as researcher Tania Lewis interacts with local middle school students. The interaction is question and answer format, allowing time to stop and start the video to solicit answers from students. As they are watching, the students should write down the researcher's answers to the questions. In conclusion, review what the students already knew about bears, what they learned about bears and how scientists study bears.
After students are finished graphing their data, ask them to make a hypothesis about "Why do bears and humans mature at different rates?" Allow them to talk with a partner for five minutes to help develop their thought processes and understanding of the scientific method. After the five minute exchange, have students share their thoughts with the class and each write their hypothesis in their science journal.
Glacier Bay Bears AssessmentThe following pre and post tests provide assessment for material covered by the entire Bear Curriculum series (Investigations 1-3)
Is it a black bear, brown bear? The two species can easily be confused. Use the "Brown vs. Black" video clip (http://www.nps.gov/glba/naturescience/bear-identification.htm) located on the park website to highlight several identifiable characteristics to help students decide. For fun, have students take the "Bear Identification Quiz" at the end of the program to see if they are on their way to becoming a bear researcher!
Official Glacier Bay National Park Website:
Alaska Department of Fish and Game - Wildlife Notebook Series: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=educators.notebookseries
International Association for Bear Research and Management:
Free education lessons and downloads from WildBC: