Two deer along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Subject:
Agriculture, Biology: Animals, Ecology, Environment, Recreation Ecology, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management
Duration:
1 class period
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Environmental Science 2. Develop an understanding of the relationship of ecological factors that effect an ecosystem. e. Explain the causes and effects of changes in population dynamics to carrying capacity and limiting factors.
Keywords:
environment, ecology, animal population, animal, ecosystem, population dynamics

Overview

Animal populations have natural cycles. Those cycles are frequently influenced by human pressures. Students will see animal populations grow and decline, and learn more about predator prey adaptations that classify animals. This lesson introduces the basic population dynamic concepts with simplified fluctuations.

Objective(s)

Enduring Understanding: Stability of animal populations depends on both biotic and abiotic factors.

Essential Question: What happens to animal populations when you add to or take away from biotic and abiotic factors?



Materials

1.) Set up for beans

2.) Teacher will need:

a. 1 lb bag of dry brown beans (or other colored beans)

b. 1 lb bag of white beans

c. plastic locking sandwich or snack bags, or cups to store beans

d. Animal Skins and Skulls (can be checked out as travel trunk from Natchez Trace Parkway 662-680-4027)

i. Skulls:

Carnivore: cougar skull, fox skull

Omnivore: bear skull, raccoon skull

Herbivore: deer skull, beaver skull

ii. Skins: Bear, red fox, gray fox, skunk, raccoon, deer, beaver, cougar, bob cat



Procedure

An option to introduce students to this activity is to have them survey fellow students, family members, or friends using the Animal Attitude Survey

Classroom Activity 1: Natural Cycles Activity:

1. Pair or group students

2. Give each group 2 brown beans (predators) and 10 white beans (prey) and a supply of white and brown beans to draw from. (It is easiest to "pair up" beans to count and track them)

3. Explain to the students:

a. In a healthy natural situation there are more prey animals than predators

b. That this is not a realistic situation because many factors affect animal populations and this activity only represent one aspect of a population cycle.

4. The teacher will tell students when to "cycle"

a. For each cycle,

i. Predators:

1. Each predator will remove 2 prey animals (put 2 white beans for each predator back in draw pile)

a. After the cycle, the teacher may lead students to discuss availability of predators' food/shelter/space

2. If a predator gets 2 prey, each predator PAIR will produce one offspring (add 1 brown bean from draw pile for each PAIR of predators)

ii. Prey:

1. After the cycle, the teacher may lead students to discuss availability of prey food/shelter/space

2. Each remaining prey PAIR will produce 2 offspring (add 2 white beans for each PAIR of remaining prey)

b. The teacher will repeat the instructions for the students to do a cycle, at least three times.

i. Note: at the end of the first cycle there will be 3 predators and 12 prey

ii. Note: at the end of the second cycle there will be 4 predators and 12 prey

iii. Note: at the end of the third cycle there will be 5 predators and 8 prey

iv. At this point the teacher may stop and ask the students what has happened.

The teacher can lead a discussion asking what is going to happen:

1. To the predator population (starve, closer together so more disease, fight for food/space/shelter, wander out of area, reproduce less)

2. To the prey population (more food, shelter, space, may reproduce more, farther apart so less chance of disease spreading)

5. The inverse: When predators are over hunted, or die.

a. For each cycle,

i. Predators:

1. Each predator will remove 2 prey animals (put 2 white beans for each predator back in draw pile)

a. After the cycle, the teacher may lead students to discuss availability of predators' food/shelter/space

2. Situation: Although the predators get enough food and reproduce, their offspring do not live to an age where they can reproduce, so no new predators are added.

a. Ask the students what may cause the young not to live long enough to reproduce? (weather, genetic defect, hunting, disease, etc)

ii. Prey:

1. After the cycle, the teacher may lead students to discuss availability of prey food/shelter/space

2. Each remaining prey PAIR will produce 2 offspring (add 2 white beans for each PAIR of remaining prey)

b. The teacher will repeat the instructions for the students to do a cycle, at least two times.

i. Note: there will always only be two predators taking 4 prey

ii. Note: at the end of the first cycle there will be 12 prey

iii. Note: at the end of the second cycle there will be 16 prey

iv. At this point the teacher may stop and ask the students what has happened.

The teacher can lead a discussion asking what is going to happen:

1. To the predator population (grow old and die, get hunted, etc)

2. To the prey population (less food, shelter, space, may reproduce less, closer together so more chance of disease spreading)

6. Lead a discussion about what they saw happen in the activity, and remind them that there are many factors that affect populations

 

Classroom Activity 2: People and animal attitude interactions:

1. Lead students by asking what happens when animal populations and people populations try to occupy the same space. (some animals prosper (mice, cockroaches) and some animals decline (example: predators), and some animals may be managed (deer) If the students have done the Animal Attitude Survey, they will have better insight into this activity.

2. Ask students some examples of places that help to maintain animal populations

a. National Parks

i. NATR is travel corridor, used by threaten Louisiana Black Bear

ii. Protected from hunting

iii. Natural habitat maintained

3. Using skins and skulls (available in a traveling trunk)

a. Show and discuss dentition of omnivore, carnivore, herbivore

b. Show skins of animals asking the students:

i. Which classification they are

ii. What would make it easy to survive NOT around people

iii. What makes it hard to survive around people

 

Classroom Activity 3: Other influences on animal populations

1. Local Influences: Habitat quality (see Qualitative vs Quantitative activity)

2. Outside influeunces: Global Warming/Climate Change

a. Ocean life: more CO2 means more acidic ocean water

b. Insects: Behavior (dispersal of aphids) is affected by CO2 levels

c. Birds: Chickadees prefer caterpillars that eat leaves with lower tannins, which are associated with lower CO2 levels.

Conclusion: Use the Qualitative vs Quantitative activity to show how a National Park helps to protect animal habitats.

Be sure to point out that the size of an animal is related to how much quality space they need to live. 

Assessment

The teacher will observe student participation and scan their work for accuracy in following directions. The teacher will note participation in discussion.

Park Connections

 The Natchez Trace Parkway is a narrow park averaging 800 feet in width. There are a lot of human influences on the animals that live along the Trace. 



Extensions

An animal attitude survey activity is available for students to share data and make graphs.

A qualitative vs quantitative activity can be used for an extension.  

Have students research animals that have been extirpated from an area. 

Have students research threatened and endangered species. 

Students can make reports, posters, power points, and/or share their information orally. 

 



Additional Resources

http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/NPCA-Wildlife-text_only_version.pdf

http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/00-NPCA-Wildlife.pdf

http://www.nps.gov/training/tel/Guides/climate_change_brochure2_08072008.pdf

http://www.slideshare.net/NationalWildlife/nwf-wildlife-warmingworldreportweb-16247032

http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/unnatural_disaster_2.pdf

 



Vocabulary

Biotic, abiotic, animal population, limiting factor