Lesson Plan

Hoofin' It! Special Parts

closeup of a Dall sheep ram
A Dall sheep ram
NPS Photo

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Subject:
Biology: Animals
Duration:
45 minutes
Setting:
indoors
Keywords:
adaptations

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 four focuses on animal adaptations.

Objective(s)

Students will be able to define and demonstrate what "adaptation" means.

Students will also be able to describe several unique adaptations of Dall sheep and discuss their importance to sheep 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
  1. Review the Dall sheep fact sheet from the first activity for vocabulary and general information about the relationship of Dall sheep to vertebrates, mammals, and general characteristics of ungulates.
  2. Collect pictures of Dall sheep (browse our photo galleries for sheep pictures).

Activity

Have the students brainstorm what the word adaptation means. List ideas on the board.

Have students describe what kinds of adaptations people have that might be different than a Dall sheep. Use the pictures to help stimulate discussion.

Break the class into small groups. Give each group a picture of a Dall sheep adaptation and have the students examine it closely. Have them answer a series of questions as part of the investigation and write the answers down. Questions could include: What is this part? What is it used for? How is this a useful adaptation for a Dall sheep?

When the group is done with the adaptation, have them pass it to the next group. Continue until each group has seen each adaptation. Hand out the fact sheets and have each group present its original adaptation to the others, explaining its uses and adaptations. Allow the other groups to ask questions or add comments.

Assessment

Hold a mini-lab and place all the pictures or parts out on a table. Have the students go around the table and answer questions about the part. Add other mammal parts or pictures of parts and have the students figure out what the part is and why they think it is that part. For example, put a picture of a moose leg or jaw on the table and have them discuss what the part is and how they came to that conclusion.


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)