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 eleven explores wildlife and their environment, including how scientists count animal populations.
Students will be able to categorize wildlife into populations and count wildlife populations.
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?
Brainstorm a list of wildlife species that are common in your area. Write the wildlife names on a large piece of poster paper.
Divide the class into five groups and assign each group one of the five animals from the list.
Distribute the construction paper to each group. Have the students cut out multiple silhouettes of their animals, anywhere from 5 to 25. You may want to provide them with photocopies of animals to cut out.
Have the groups work on a class mural. Provide them with a large sheet of poster paper. Have them draw a landscape that is similar to the local landscape.
Have the students glue their silhouettes in the appropriate places on the mural. Once all the animals are glued in place, attach the mural to a classroom wall.
Have the class count the number of individuals in each animal population on the mural. Tally the results where all the students can see.
Using the mural, discuss the term “population”. As the students to describe their population. Write what the students say onto strips of paper. Attach the sentence strips to the mural. For example, you might ask, “How many moose are in the moose population?” and write the answer “Five moose are in the moose population”.
Students can discuss the various habitat needs for each population and then draw their needs on the mural. For example, squirrels need trees for food and shelter so the students would draw or cut out pictures of trees for their squirrel population.
Students could collect various materials from the local area and glue them to the mural (i.e. tundra, grass, rocks, needles).
Ask the students if a population can include two or more different kinds of animals? (Answer: no)
Can there be more than one population of one kind of animal? (Answer: yes, for instance they live in separate areas.)
Why are some populations bigger than others? (Answer: limits to resources, predation, etc.)
Give the students a worksheet with pictures or drawings of animals. Ask them to state the size of each population.
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.