Lesson Plan

Classified: Bears (and more) on the Trace

Bear Track found at Rocky Springs, Milepost 54.8
Bear Track found at Rocky Springs, Milepost 54.8
NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Subject:
Biology: Animals
Duration:
1 class period
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Biology I: 6a.
Keywords:
black bear, bear, taxonomy, biology, classification

Overview

Students will examine the system of classification developed by Carlos Linnaeus in the 1750’s.  Students will develop a poster illustrating the Linnaean Classification System.

Objective(s)

Enduring Understanding: Species are classified into kingdom, phylum/division, class, order, family, genus, and species

Essential Question: What characteristics are used to classify species?

The students will:

1.) Learn the major levels of hierarchy of taxa

2.) Learn about the Linnaean Classification System

3.) Learn the classification of Black Bears



Background

The black bear (Ursus americanus) has played an important role in Mississippi's natural history. Native Americans traveled the old Natchez trace from Natchez to Nashville. They relied on the black bear as a source of food, clothing, and goods for trade.

By the early 1900's, black bear numbers had been drastically reduced. With a natural slow reproductive rate coupled with the clearing of forest for agriculture, and overhunting, the state's bear population was reduced to less than a dozen animals in 1932. In fact, there were no documented cases of black bears giving birth to cubs in Mississippi for a period of time from the early 1970's until 2005. The reason for this is quite simple. There were no female bears. The few bears that did inhabit the state were primarily sub adult males that had been pushed out of their former ranges from other states by older, larger males. By 1980 more than 80 percent of the bottomland hardwood forest in Mississippi was gone. In 1984 the black bear was placed on the endangered species list. Things started changing for the black bear in 2005. A radio-collared female bear from Louisiana wandered into Wilkinson County and gave birth to 5 cubs and a new era in Mississippi black bear conservation and management was begun. From 2005 to 2010, biologist documented six litters of cubs born to six different collared females throughout Mississippi. Den checks by MDWFP biologist and MSU biologist documented six more litters of cubs in the Delta region of the state.

Today, we are witnessing the re-colonization of one of Mississippi's greatest icons. Due to federal programs to restore bottomland hardwoods and protected federal land such as the bayous and swamps along meandering rivers in the southern portion of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the black bear is doing well.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus: Ursus

Species: americanus

Binomial name:

Ursus americanus



Materials

1.) Poster making materials

2.) Internet access



Procedure

Student Task: Students will use their textbook and the internet and/or magazines to complete the poster.

Student Instruction: Students will develop a poster illustrating the seven levels of Linnaeus's classification system from general to most specific. The levels are kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Students will begin with at least 10 animals in the Kingdom, Animalia and conclude with the binomial name of the black bear, Ursus americanus.

Options:

  1. Students may be assigned 5 common animal names and track them "upwards" and then assigned 5 Orders and track each species back to its Phyllum and down to a species. 
  2. Students may illustrate, or use graphics, cut out pictures, etc to integrate visual media. 
  3. Students may be assigned one species of plant or animal. They would make a poster, and at each level, write a paragraph about the animals at that level. 
  4. Add one assigned animal for the students to "track down" that has several species assigned to one common name. They can list all of the species and genera that represent that one common name. Examples are bear, fox, catfish, carp, warbler, mouse, rat, bat, deer, hare, rabbit, skunk.

Teacher Closure: Explain to the students that the black bear plays a vital role in the natural heritage of our state. They once thrived when the Native American lived here. Due to habitat destruction from human activity, black bear populations drastically declined. With the help of government agencies such as the US National Park Service, other agencies, and each of us, black bear populations can steady increase and be here for the enjoyment of future generations.

Assessment

Students will be graded using a rubric on their poster.

Park Connections

There are many different species along the Natchez Trace Parkway each with their own taxonomic classification. Black bears, once extirpated from Mississippi, on rare occasions have been seen using the southern end of the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Extensions

Refer to the black bear when teaching topics such as principles of ecology, interactions in ecosystems, and human impact on ecosystems.

Additional Resources

Mississippi black bear restoration group  

PBS interactive classification quiz 

Tree of Life web project



Vocabulary

Taxonomy, binomial nomenclature, genus, species, Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family