Lesson Plan

Bison Life Cycle

Lesson Plan Image
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.RF.4, 5.RF.4, 4.RI.1, 4.RI.3, 5.RI.5, 4.W.2, 5.W.2
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.

Essential Question

How long do bison live to be?


Students will understand the life cycle of the bison and compare it to a human life cycle.


All living things go through changes in their lives. Humans start out as infants, grow into toddlers, children, teenagers, and finally adults. The cycle from birth to death in modern humans usually takes about 80 years.


In the wild, the bison life cycle takes less than 20 years. This means that it has less time to grow, learn, and pass along its genes to later generations. The animal must gain the skills to survive and reproduce at a much earlier age.


Calves are born usually in the late spring. They are usually reddish in color and weigh between 30 and 40 pounds. Because they must survive on the open prairie, newborn bison calves are also precocial, meaning that they can stand and walk within minutes.

Download Bison calf

Calves nurse with their mothers for the first 6 months of life before they are weaned onto a diet of grass. Male calves can become completely independent of their mothers at this point, and females usually do a few months later.

Download Bison nursing

Young bison may remain with their mother's herd or venture out to find another. During this time, they learn social behaviors and establish themselves in the social order of the herd.

Download Young bison

Females become reproductively mature at about 2 years old, males at about 5 years old.

Download Bison adolescence

The breeding season, also known as the rut, begins in late summer and can run until September. Males will “tend” a chosen female by staying near to her and fighting other males that attempt to challenge.

Download Bison rut

Adult bison are the largest land mammals in North America. Males can weigh up to 2,200 pounds and females up to 1,200 pounds.

Download Fully grown bison

In the wild, the American bison lives around 12-15 years. In captivity, they can live to be almost 30.

Download Bison age

Image of bison life cycle descriptions than can be cut to match images

Download Bison life cycle descriptions

Lesson Hook/Preview

When does a human become an "adult"? When does a bison become an "adult"? Are they the same or different?


1. Print out the bison life cycle pictures and descriptions and cut them to size.

2. Separate the bison life cycle pictures and descriptions into two piles and mix up each pile.

3. Have class study the pictures and attempt to put them in life cycle order, from youngest to oldest.

4. Read each description and have class attempt to match the description to the proper picture

Contact Information

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Last updated: March 19, 2023