Lesson Plan

Bison by the Numbers

Bison on the prairie
Bison on the prairie

Larry McAfee, National Park Service photograph

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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fourth Grade
Biology: Animals, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management
50 minutes (1 period)
National/State Standards:
South Dakota Math Standards: 3.N.1.1, 3.S.1.1, 3.S.1.2, 4.N.1.1, 4.S.1.1


The American bison was an important species to Native Americans on the Great Plains of North America. However, as settlers moved west during the nineteen century, the population numbers dramatically dropped from overhunting. In this exercise, students will learn graphing skills while learning about this species that almost went extinct.


Students will learn about the population changes of the American bison and learn how to chart data using a bar graph.


At the turn of the nineteenth century, an estimated 80 million bison roamed the Great Plains of North America. However, as settlers and the United States moved west, the abundance of bison plummeted to near-extinction levels. By 1900 the number of bison population was believed to have dropped to only 500 individuals.


Bison by the Numbers student worksheetsBison by the Numbers Answer Key, and pencils


Additional Resources

These resources are available through Badlands National History Association (BNHA), a not-for-profit organization established to support education and research efforts at Badlands National Park.

  • America's Prairie and Grasslands by Marianne D. Wallace
  • Local Tracks of North America "Quick Guide"
  • Golden Guide: Mammals
  • Badlands Suite: Land of Stone and Light, From Field to Lab, Multiple Perspectives DVD


South Dakota, bison, prairie, Badlands National Park, national park, North America, Native American, food, shelter, clothing, tools, population, extinct

Last updated: April 10, 2015