Lesson Plan

Hoofin' It - Year of the Sheep

a Dall sheep ewe and lamb on a ridge
Dall sheep lambs grow comfortable with heights from an early age
NPS Photo

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Twelfth Grade
Subject:
Biology: Animals, Wildlife Biology
Duration:
Two or three class periods
Setting:
indoors

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 seven focuses on the life cycle of Dall sheep

Objective(s)

Students will understand the life cycle of Dall sheep.

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

Be sure to read the background information on the Dall sheep life cycle.

Activity

By the end of this activity, students will have developed an annual timeline or calendar of events for Dall sheep.

Using a calendar or a monthly timeline drawn on the board, have the students brainstorm what they already know about the life cycle of Dall sheep. When do they breed? When do they migrate? When are lambs born? What do sheep do in the winter? When the timeline is complete, assess what the students still need to know to fill in the rest of the calendar. Have them make a list of questions they would like to have answered.

Students may augment the information in the Dall sheep fact sheet, and the life cycle sheet from above, with various resources in this unit, the library, or the Internet. Ask students to research the answers to their questions about sheep life.

After students have done the research, have them complete the annual timeline for all to share.

Extensions

Students can explore other animal life cycles through a variety of comparison/contrast timelines and research papers. For example, how is the life cycle of Dall sheep similar to or different from that of caribou or moose? How are life cycles of large mammals different/similar to those of smaller mammals such as the fox or snowshoe hare? How are life cycles of land animals different than those of marine animals?

Suggested Assessment

Ask students to describe the annual Dall sheep life cycle. Students could draw pictures or produce a short video.


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)