Lesson Plan

Hoofin' It! - Through the Seasons

autumn scene of three sheep sitting amid orange, red and green foliage
Dall sheep in autumn
NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Eleventh Grade
Duration:
45 minutes
Setting:
indoors or outdoors

Overview

The lesson plans in our 'Hoofin' It!' unit help students learn the basics of animal classification and what characteristics are common to mammals, mainly through studying Dall sheep.

Lesson ten is a game exploring how the seasons impact wildlife populations.

Objective(s)

Students will be able to recognize how seasons affect animal movements and survival.

Background

The "Hoofin' It!" unit explores the natural resource management of Dall sheep in the national parks of northwest Alaska. Students will learn about Dall sheep, where they live, how they have adapted to their environment, and how wildlife biologists study them to understand how to protect their populations within national parklands. Links to other lessons in the unit can be found at page bottom.

Dall sheep are a wild sheep that lives on steep mountain slopes across the Alaska. The sheep are an integral part of the natural ecosystem, and they are prized by subsistence and recreational hunters. In the early 1990s, the Dall sheep population in the Baird Mountains of Noatak National Preserve declined dramatically, losing half its population in two years. Wildlife managers closed the sheep hunting season for seven years to allow the population to grow again.

Why did the population drop so suddenly? What are the natural and human factors that affect the Dall sheep population? In the spring of 2000, Brad Shults, a wildlife biologist for the National Park Service, began a research project to learn more about Dall sheep population dynamics. Shults hopes to better understand sheep by studying the number of lambs that are born, how long sheep live, what are the most common causes of death, where do they go from season to season, and just how many sheep are there?

Procedure

Before You Begin

Using the rope, divide a large area (gym/field/room) into four sections to represent each season: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each section is not equal. Divide the area such that the winter range is about 10% of the total area and each other season is about 30% each.

Mark some of the tokens with a ‘D’ for disease or an ‘H’ for hunters. Mix them back in with the other tokens.

Spread all the colored tokens throughout the seasons but put only half as many of the tokens in the winter range. Keep the numbered tokens face down, so students cannot tell them apart.

Activity

Tell the students that they are going to be grazing or foraging for food. They need to collect as many tokens as possible since they represent food or water.

Start the activity in the spring and have all the students stand off to one side of the room. Blow the whistle and tell all the “sheep” to move to the called out season. Have the sheep pick up as many tokens in that season as they can in one minute. After one minute, whistle and have the sheep move to the next seasonal range.

Stop the activity after one complete year. Have the students tally up their tokens, noting how many also picked up disease or hunting tokens. For a sheep to survive a year, they must have collected five tokens. If they got a disease or hunting token, they didn’t survive that year.

Extensions

The activity can be extended by adding more “limiting factors”. Instructors can mark the tokens with different colors to represent limiting factors without revealing what each color means until after the game. For example, make one color pollution. Pollution tokens could be distributed throughout all the seasons or in just one season. At the end of the activity, have the students calculate the percentage of pollution tokens found in the sheep habitat. Discuss how pollution affects sheep survivability. Another variation would be to make food one color of token and water another color. Shortages of one or the other color could represent a shortage of food or water. Discuss the affects of these events with the students.

Suggested Assessment

Have students name at least two limiting factors for Dall sheep.

Have the students choose a limiting factor and describe how it might affect the sheep population for one year, five years, and 10 years.


Additional Resources

The "Hoofin' It!" unit explores the natural resource management of Dall sheep in the national parks of northwest Alaska. Students will learn about Dall sheep, where they live, how they have adapted to their environment, and how wildlife biologists study them to understand how to protect their populations within national parklands.

This unit is designed for grades K-12. Many of the lesson plans are appropriate for younger grades, although the later part of the unit are geared towards middle and high school. A class needn't do every lesson in the unit to gain insights into wildlife management - each can be approached as a stand-alone lesson on a particular biology-related topic.

Lesson 1
Hoofin' It! - What Do You Know?

(Understanding taxonomy; k - 12th grade)
Lesson 2
Hoofin' It! - Vertebrate Grab Game

(Exploring types of vertebrates; 3rd - 6th grade) 
Lesson 3
Hoofin' It! Vertebrate Mysteries

(A vertebrate matching game; 8th - 12th grade)
Lesson 4
Hoofin' It! Special Parts

(Animal adaptations; k - 12th grade)
Lesson 5
Hoofin' It! Hard to See?

(Camoflague; k - 8th grade)
Lesson 6
Hoofin' It! - Sheep Maneuvers

(A predator-prey game; k - 12th grade)
Lesson 7
Hoofin' It - Year of the Sheep

(Life cycle of a Dall sheep; 3rd - 12th grade)
Lesson 8
Hoofin' It! - Who's Got My Habitat?

(Habitat and wildlife populations; 3rd - 12th grade)
Lesson 9
Hoofin' It! - Habitat Grid

(Exploring wildlife habitat; k - 3rd grade)
Lesson 10
Hoofin' It! - Through the Seasons

(A game looking at seasonal impacts on wildlife; 2nd - 11th grade)
Lesson 11
Hoofin' It! - Population Art

(Intro to counting wildlife populations; k - 2nd grade
Lesson 12
Hoofin' It! - Population Calculation

(Graphing and analyzing sheep population data; 6th - 10th grade)
Lesson 13
Hoofin' It! - Scavenger Hunt

(A game connecting students to wildlife; k - 6th grade)
Lesson 14
Hoofin' It! - Field Sampling

(How scientists count wildlife populations; k - 12th grade)
Lesson 15
Hoofin' It! The Bean Counters: Mark-Recapture

(Learning to use the mark-recapture method for population surveys; 5th - 12th grade)