Begin this activity by telling the students that they are going to become Dall sheep and components of their habitat. Ask students what the main components of habitat are , e.g., food, water, shelter, and space.
Ask the students to count off by fives. Leave the role of recorder for a student who doesn’t feel like running or can’t be physically active. Have all the 1’s line up at one end of the gym/field; they will be the Dall sheep. Have everyone else line up at the other end of the gym/field; they will be the habitat components (food, water, shelter, or space).
Each “habitat component” will get to pick what they want to be at the beginning of each round, but they must remain as the same type of component through the entire round. To represent food, students should clamp their hands over their stomach. To represent water, students should put their hands over their mouth. To represent shelter, students should hold their hands over their head and clasp their hands (like a tent). To represent space, students should hold their arms out in front them in an open circle (like holding a big ball).
The 1’s, or Dall sheep, will choose a habitat component to look for any during each round but once they choose what they need, they can’t change until the next round, either. The Dall sheep depict which habitat component they need in the same way (i.e., cover the mouth for water, hold stomach for food, etc.).
The game starts with all players lined up on their respective lines with their backs to each other, so the 1’s can’t see the 2-5’s and vice versa. The teacher gives the students a few moments to decide what habitat component they will be (2s—5s) or what habitat component they will need (1s). Have each student make the appropriate sign. When all the students are ready, count to three and the student turn around to face one another.
When the sheep see the habitat component they need, they should run (or walk if in a small area) to it. Each sheep must hold their sign until they find the “habitat component” that is the same on the other side. When a sheep finds the habitat component it needs, the sheep takes that person back to the sheep side of the gym/field. All these students will become sheep in the next round. If a sheep doesn’t find the habitat component it needs, then it doesn’t survive. Sheep that don’t survive become a “habitat component”. As an example, if all the students decide to make the same sign, for example, all shelter, that could represent a “drought” year with no available food or water. All sheep that chose a sign other than shelter will become habitat on the next round.
At the end of each round, have the recorder tally how many sheep are on the line. Continue the game for approximately ten rounds.
At the end of the game, ask the students what happened. Together graph the results from year to year (each round representing one year) on the flip chart or chalkboard. Place the year along the x-axis and the number of sheep along the y-axis. The students will observe fluctuations in the sheep population. Ask them why this happened.
Discuss how habitat components can affect populations:
- Did the number of sheep go up or down or both?
- What do animals need to survive?
- What are are some of the “limiting factors” that affect sheep survival?
- Are wildlife populations static, or do they tend to fluctuate as part of an overall balance of nature? Is nature ever really “balanced”?
Have students do the activity again, only have index cards with different limiting factors on the cards (i.e. predator, weather, pollution, development). Graph how the different limiting factors affect the sheep population.
Have students answer the following independently in a paper or verbal exercise:
- Name the essential habitat components.
- Define limiting factors and give three examples.
Give the student different graphs with population size fluctuating over time. Have the students give reasons as to why the population might be fluctuating.