Students will be able to distinguish between wildlife and domesticated animals.
An animal is usually defined to as any living organism other than a plant. Wildlife is any animal that lives in a basically free condition, providing its own food, shelter, and other needs in an environment that serves as a suitable habitat. Wildlife is not tame or domesticated. Wildlife is a term usually placed upon the larger mammals, but wildlife may also include insects, spiders, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians.
Although all animals have their origins in wild animals, domesticated animals are those which humans have tamed, kept in captivity, and bred for special purposes. Some domesticated animals are cattle, horses, sheep, dogs, cats, birds, fish, and small animals kept as pets. Some wild animals can be tamed and some tame animals can live in the wild. This concept is especially important when it comes to animals that seem domesticated, like the mule deer at the sand dunes. They have become semi-tame due to extended human contact.
Explore Great Sand Dunes' web pages on animals (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and insects) for more on the diverse wildlife of the park.
Pencils, slips of paper, something to keep score on, a container to pull out the slips of paper (i.e. hat, box, bag)
This activity is a form of charades with a goal of helping children distinguish between wild and domesticated animals. It can either be done in the classroom as a pre-activity or at the sand dunes. Set up an area for students to observe and to act. Students can be divided into two teams or this can be played with the whole class. Students take a slip of paper and write the name of an animal and whether it is wild or domesticated. The pieces of paper are then put into the hat and drawn out either by students or by the teacher calling the name on the slip. The student then acts out the animal on the slip with either the whole class guessing or just their team. A point is scored for a team if the animal can be guessed within the time frame. An extra point is given if the class can tell if the animal is wild or domestic. Following the charades ask the students to clarify their definitions of wild and domestic animals. Encourage students to clarify where animals are usually found. For example, there may be a tiger in a zoo or circus that is tamed but most of its species are not. It is useful and important for students to consider what appear to be and may be exceptions, as they refine their understanding of distinctions between wild and domesticated.
Has any wildlife at the Great Sand Dunes been domesticated? What about gray jays, mule deer, bears, and other animals that are fed by visitors? Are these animals being domesticated by our actions? How may feeding them affect them or their offspring in the future?
Have older students (5th and 6th grade) research the domestication of animals. Each group of two students should choose a different domesticated animal. Give them one week to research the origins of that animal. They should discover a) where the animal came from, b) why it was originally domesticated, and c) what its closest wild relative is. Each group should present a short five-minute report to the class on their animal.