Lesson Plan

What is Wild?

Bittern chicks
Bittern chicks


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Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
Environment, Wilderness
40-50 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Common Core

Next Generation Science
ESS3.C Human impacts on earth systems
LS2.A Interdependent relationships
LS4.D Biodiversity


Students will learn about and discuss why we have National Parks set aside to be ‘wild’.  They will compare National Parks to their local surroundings in town or at school.


  1. Students will compare and contrast their home with wild environments.
  2. Students will define wilderness as a place not developed by humans.
  3. Students will be able to explain why we have National Parks and Wilderness Areas.


Grand Teton National Park is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem which is among the largest intact temperate ecosystems. Grand Teton National Park is a unique place which helps protect:

  • 310,000 acres of land including, sagebrush flats, rivers, forests and mountains.
  • Endangered species: grizzly bears, whooping cranes, wolverines and lynx.
  • 40 miles of the Teton mountain range with the Grand Teton at 13,775 feet and nine other peaks over 12,000 feet.
  • Over 1,000 different species of native plants.
  • 300 different species of birds.
  • 70 different species of mammals including elk, bison, grizzly and black bears, moose, and gray wolves.
Many children have never visited wilderness, though they may have images from stories or movies of what wild places look like. Drawing on students' own experiences and perceptions, these activities introduce the concept of wilderness by comparing wild places to developed places. The levels of distinction students make will vary with their experience, age, and the location of your community. A good definition of wilderness for young children is that of a place influenced by the forces of nature, where people visit, but do not live. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines wilderness "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, [wilderness is] an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Rod Nash, wilderness historian, believes that wilderness is so heavily weighted with meaning of a personal, symbolic, and changing kind that it is difficult to define.

A place designated as Wilderness may prohibit motors or even vehicles likes bikes, and typically does not allow hunting. It might even try to keep people from crowding a place so it stays as 'natural' as possible.

Since parts of National Parks, including Grand Teton, are managed as Wilderness, it makes them a living laboratory with few human influences, rife for scientific discovery. The solitude and ruggedness of many National Parks have also become one of the things people savor most about their visit. 



White board/Smart Board

Pencils and paper

Photos or videos of the National Park

Magazines for collage images



Students can write several points on how and why their school yard/local park is similar to and different from Grand Teton National Park.

Students can discuss several reasons why we have National Parks and Wilderness areas.

Students can explain why different animals are found in National Parks than in their local town/park.

Park Connections

The lesson allows students to think about and discuss their role and the importance of protecting habitats for different types of organisms. 



Students could work in pairs to create their own National Parks and explain the various habitats and animals they are protecting.


Ask students to consider a world with no Wilderness/wilderness/wild places. Have them write/draw/talk about their feelings and reactions.


Set up a debate between one group who is in favor of Wilderness, and another group who would rather see that land developed.

Additional Resources

A Place Called Jackson Hole by John Daugherty

True Green Kids: 100 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Planet by Kim McKay & Jenny Bonnin


Wilderness, habitat, national park, protection

Last updated: February 24, 2015