Lesson Plan

Hoofin' It! - What Do You Know?

three Dall sheep
Dall sheep rams
NPS Photo


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 one lets students discuss what they already know about taxonomy and Dall sheep.


Students will discuss their level of knowledge about Dall sheep, mammals, and vertebrates.


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.

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?

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.


Before You Begin

Read the background information: Dall Sheep Taxonomy, Dall Sheep Fact Sheet, Vertebrate Fact Sheet. The information provides vocabulary and general information about the relationship of Dall sheep to vertebrates, mammals, and general characteristics of ungulates.


  1. Introduce students to the unit by telling them they will be learning about Dall sheep, in particular, Dall sheep found in northwestern Alaska. They will learn how the sheep live, where they live, what people know about them, and how people affect them.
  2. Write at the top of the board or chart paper, “What do we know about sheep?”. Underneath this list five categories: appearance (how sheep look), life history (how and where sheep live), importance (how are sheep important to us?), other information and “ Let’s find out!”. 
  3. Ask students to brainstorm (open discussion) what they know about each heading. All ideas need to be recorded for encouragement and participation. If there are questions, put them on the “Let’s find out” sheet.

    Use probing questions to encourage the depth of their knowledge such as “If a sheep is a mammal, what makes a mammal a mammal?” 
  4. Adaptations: Grades K-4, an alternative to open brainstorming is to have students draw a picture of what they think a Dall sheep looks like on blank paper. Have the students try to answer the headings by drawing what they think a sheep looks like and where they might live. After the pictures are drawn, the student can explain their artwork and hang them in the room. The whole class can then brainstorm on how and why Dall sheep are important to us.

Suggested Assessment

Since this a brainstorming activity to find out the level students are at in “what they know”, they should not be assessed on how much they know. Suggested assessment would be to include this activity with whole unit and make notes on student participation in brainstorming session and overall involvement in discussion.

Additional Resources

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 popluations; 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)