Lesson Plan

Pathways to Discovery - Bear Carrying Capacity Game

a brown bear eating vegetation

NPS / Nathan Kostegian

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Grade Level:
Second Grade-Fifth Grade
Ecology, Wildlife Biology
30 minutes
National/State Standards:
Alaska State Standards
Science: A12, 14, 15; B1, 2, 3; D1, 2;
Mathematics: C1, 2, 3; E2, 3
bears, game


Use America's largest national park as a pathway to discovery!

In this lesson, students learn about "carrying capacity," the idea that an area can only support a certain amount of wildlife, by playing a game mimicking the life of bears.


  • To develop observational skills

  • To learn to identify and appreciate some wildlife that live in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, as well as their habitat requirements, and their role in the park. 


While outside, look for animal signs and habitats. Explain that there are limitations on the numbers of any species in a given area, such as the Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Preserve. This is known as the area’s carrying capacity. These limitations are often closely related to the amount of food available. In this game students will be bears competing for limited food resources.



Ask the students: 

  • What are different activities animals undertake in order to meet needs of shelter, food, water, space?

  • What is the carrying capacity of an area for a certain species?

  • Do they think most species, not just bears, have a carrying capacity in a specific habitat?

  • If people destroy forests, build roads, or otherwise disturb the natural checks and balances in nature, will an area be able to provide all the resources for the community of animals that live there, enabling each to reach its carrying capacity in that area? Why or why not?

  • Does the earth has a carrying capacity for people?

Additional Resources

This lesson is part of our "Pathways to Discovery" unit. The individual lessons can be done individually or as a larger unit of learning. They encourage the development of a student’s awareness and appreciation of the natural world and people’s relationship and role as a part of that natural world.

The lessons are a series of shorter activities that have been blended together under a specific theme with the intent that the activities will be coordinated with units in the existing school curriculum and texts. The materials are organized by grade level, but can actually be adapted for use at any grade level.

Last updated: April 14, 2015