Lesson Plan

Surviving in the Wild

A young mountain goat
Grade Level:
Lower Elementary: Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade
Science,Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
Additional Standards:
NGSS: K-ESS3-1. Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.

Essential Question

What makes an animal "wild"?


Students will be able to: 1. describe the basic needs of all living things, 2. define differences and similarities between wild and domestic animals, 3. state in their own words why wild animals need wild places to live, and 4. learn about some of the wild animals that live in Glacier National Park.


Students often have the misconception that the rangers in Glacier National Park feed and take care of the animals that live here just like they do for their pets. In fact, the rangers take care of the animals’ habitat and then the plants and animals can survive on their own. Wild animals are very different from pets. A pet is a domesticated animal kept for companionship or amusement. A domestic animal is one whose breeding is largely controlled by humans.

Domestic animals have been bred to have characteristics that make them compatible with people. Some of these characteristics are physical (amount and distribution of meat, size, shape changes, coat characteristics); others involve selecting for “personality” traits that are desirable (docility, tractability, etc.).

The herd social structure tends to provide the correct basic characteristics that are selected for compatibility with people. So, animals like raccoons largely lack the basic personality characteristics to become good domestic animals.

The following animals meet the definition of domestic as presented above: dog, cat, sheep, goat, cattle, pig, donkey, horse, camel, llama, alpaca, ferret, guinea pig, rabbit (one species), chicken, turkey. A tame animal has been brought from wildness into a domesticated state. People need to provide for their pets and domestic animals because they have not been bred to care for themselves in the wild.



  • Scissors
  • Animal drawings (end of packet)
  • Magazines with animal pictures
  • Yarn
  • Paper for collages


  1. Ask students to think of their favorite pet or a pet they know (if they don’t have a pet). Tell them they will act out this pet as you describe the activities it goes through each day. Begin with all children as animals sleeping. In your description include waking up, stretching, playing, drinking, exercising, interacting with others, eating, keeping warm, and having a bed or shelter. Conclude with the students going back to sleep. Have students share the pets they chose and what they did during the day.
  2. Ask them to think about some of the things they needed when they were pets, and make a list on your paper. Focus student’s attention on categories of food, water, shelter, and living space. Explain that these are the same basic needs of plants, people, wildlife, and domestic animals although they meet their needs in different ways.
  3. Compare the students’ pet animals to wild animals, reminding students that wild animals have the same basic needs, but they take care of themselves in wild places. Discuss animals that are predators, hunters or grazers. Show them an overhead of the “Adapatations” blackline master of the different parts of the beaver that help it to survive in the wild. Older students can fill in the student page as you point out the different adaptations.
  4. Show pictures of other animals and have students verbally categorize them as wild or domestic. Ask the questions: in their natural home, would there be people taking care of them? Could people take care of them in a wild place?
  5. Have students collect pictures of animals both wild and domestic or have them draw their own. Then see if students can divide the pictures: Make two circles of yarn on the floor labeled “wild” and “domestic” and have students place their pictures in the appropriate circle and explain why, or make two class collages of these categories. 
  6. Use the following questions in your discussion: What are some of the differences between the two groups? Similarities? What about domestic compared to tame animals? If you are out camping and find a den of baby raccoons, what should you do? What is “best” for the animals? The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has information about wildlife viewing.
  7. Have students share their understanding of how wild places are important for the survival of wild animals. In a sharing circle or as a written activity, have students fill in the blanks: I would like to be a _______ (animal). I need _________ (adaptation) to help me to survive.


Have students learn about what kinds of wild animals live in Glacier National Park and the surrounding areas of northwest Montana. Students can create wildlife clue cards for Glacier animals by using the Glacier Wildlife Coloring Book or finding their own pictures of wildlife. Paste the drawing to one side of an index card and on the other side, use information from the resource section to make clues about the animal. See if students can “stump” the class with their animal clues. Example: “I look like a pet you might have at home, but I am not a pet. I am a very good hunter and can smell small animals through the snow (coyote).” or “I am small but I can make a loud noise. I look kind of like a small rabbit and I live in the high mountains where I stay active in winter. I eat the grasses that I have stacked up all summer (pika).”


Domestic, habitat, national parks, pet, tame, wild, wilderness.

Assessment Materials

Use the wild and domestic page following this activity to have students circle which animals are wild and which are domestic. Then draw a Glacier animal or domestic animal they are familiar with.

Contact Information

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Last updated: December 29, 2020