Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear
Lesson Activities

INTRODUCTORY ACTIVITY

1) Ask your students to think about the interactions that human beings have with their environment and, consequently, the organisms in that environment. Is it possible for human beings to have negative or detrimental effects on their environment and the organisms in it? (Most students will respond that definitely, yes, human beings can and do sometimes have a negative impact on the environment and the organisms in it.) Ask your students if they can think of any specific examples where humans have had a negative impact on the environment and individual organisms. (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students if it is possible for human beings to have positive or beneficial effects on their environment and the organisms in it. (Students may be more tentative, but should recognize that human beings can have a positive impact on the environment and specific organisms). Ask your students if they can think of any specific examples where humans have had a positive impact on the environment and individual organisms. (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students whether they think the impact-positive or negative-that human beings have on the environment and the organisms in it is always intentional or purposeful? Why or why not? (Student answers will vary.)

2) Explain to your students that for the next few class periods, they will be examining the results of interaction between human beings and grizzly bears in the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park. The tumultuous history of the relationship between bears and humans in the area provides numerous examples of both the positive and negative impact humans can have on the environment and the organisms in it.

3) Ask your students if they know where Yellowstone National Park is. If your students do not know, tell them that the Park is located in the western part of the United States. Most of the park is in the state of Wyoming, but portions of it are in Montana and Idaho. Ask a student to identify the location of Yellowstone National Park on the map of the United States.

4) Tell your students that before you begin examining the complicated relationship between humans and grizzlies bears, you’d like to assess their knowledge, preconceptions, and understanding of certain aspects of human/grizzly interaction. Point out the signs you’ve taped to the walls of your classroom reading “GOOD,” “BAD,” “TRUE,” and “FALSE.” Explain to your students that you will be reading a series of statements to them, and it will be their responsibility to move to the sign that most closely reflects their understanding or opinion. Tell your students that for some of the statements, there may not be a single “correct” answer.

5) Read your students the following statements. After each statement, give your students time to move towards the sign that most closely aligns with their understanding or opinion. Record your students’ responses to each statement, and the number of students that take each position in the room.

  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears live across all northern areas of North America.
  • Grizzly bear populations, which were once headed towards extinction, are making a comeback. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears are exclusively meat-eating carnivores.
  • For a long time, grizzly bears were protected by the Endangered Species Act. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears pose a serious risk to the safety of humans in and around Yellowstone National Park.
  • Grizzly bears attract tourists and visitors to areas like Yellowstone National Park. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears destroy multiple thousands of dollars in human property each year.
  • Grizzly bears can now be found outside of protected lands like National Parks. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Humans’ behavior towards grizzly bears has significantly changed in the last fifty years.
  • Grizzly bears sometimes consume humans’ garbage. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Climate change will potentially have a catastrophic effect on grizzly bears.
  • Grizzly bears kill livestock owned by humans when it lies in their range or territory. Is this GOOD or BAD?

After your students have responded to all of the questions, explain to them that you will revisit this exercise at the end of the lesson, to see if their ideas or opinions have shifted or changed at all as a result of the activities presented in the lesson.

6) Tell your students that as a class, they need to begin developing a basic understanding of grizzly bear biology. Distribute the “Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear” organizer (PDF)(RTF) to your students. Ask your students to log on to the Windows into Wonderland Web site. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to explore Part 1 of the Electronic Field Trip, which focuses on Bear Ecology, and complete the information on the “Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear” organizer while examining the site. Give your students 15-20 minutes to complete this task.

7) Review the “Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear” organizer with your students using the Answer Key (PDF)(RTF). What did your students learn about grizzly bears from the Web site? What surprised them or intrigued them? (Student answers will vary.)

8) Collect and review the “Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear” organizer for assessment purposes; re-distribute the organizers prior to proceeding into the Learning Activity.

LEARNING ACTIVITY

1) Explain to your students that you will now begin examining the complex relationships between humans and bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. In order to understand the way things currently are between grizzlies and humans, it’s necessary to understand what has happened in the past. Explain to your students that a major turning point came in 1972, when the Park changed a policy and closed something down. Divide the class in half. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking one half of the class to be prepared to describe the human/grizzly relationship prior to 1972, and the other half of the class to be prepared to describe the human/grizzly relationship after 1972. PLAY Clip 1, “Bears’ Lunch Counter.” (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask one half of the class to describe what the human/grizzly relationship was like prior to 1972. (Students should describe that grizzlies once ranged over a large portion of the western North America, but they were hunted almost to the point of extinction as Americans tamed the West; grizzlies are now largely found only in Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park; grizzlies were seen as “entertainment” in the Park, and were purposefully displayed feeding on garbage.)

Ask the other half of the class to describe what happened after 1972. (Students should describe that Yellowstone became something of an amusement park, and to restore its wildness, the dumps were closed. Bears became aggressive, and many were killed when they invaded camp sites. In 1975, the grizzly was listed on the Endangered Species Act, and essentially given a preserve to help them build the population. The grizzlies had to re-adapt to hunting, and began with elk. Gradually, year by year, the grizzly population built itself up.)

2) Ask your students to predict how they think humans have adapted to the growing bear population in Yellowstone. What potential problems might humans face as the bear population increases in the park? (Accept all student answers.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to check their predictions against the video segment, and determine what humans’ relationship with the grizzlies in Yellowstone is like now. PLAY Clip 2, “This Is Their Land.” (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask your students if any of their predictions were correct. (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students what the relationship between humans and bears in the park is like now. (Answers should include that bears are a major attraction in the park, sometimes causing “bear jams” of tourists who want to see them; people sometimes get too close to bears and have to be reprimanded; rangers have to “take care” of tourists; humans have had to design special bear-proof garbage cans.) Ask your students why keeping bears out of garbage is essential to bear survival. (If bears get used to eating garbage, they will stop hunting for wildlife, and can potentially become “problem bears” that have to be relocated or destroyed.) What will happen to a bear that comes back to a campground too often? (It will be killed.)

3) Explain to your students that the bear population has come back significantly enough that bears are not only found inside Yellowstone, but in the surrounding areas as well. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how “problem” bears are dealt with outside the Park. PLAY Clip 3, “Bears Don’t Recognize Boundaries.” (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask your students how problem bears are dealt with outside the park. (Under the Endangered Species Act, they were collared and released.) Why was this problem for ranchers in the area? (Bears were killing livestock.) Explain to your students that cattle and horses can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a piece, so a grizzly killing 100 head of cattle represents a significant loss of income for the rancher. Ask your students if they think ranchers should be allowed to kill problem bears. (Student responses will vary.) Ask your students if they think the rancher responded appropriately by moving his cattle. (Student answers will vary.)

4) Tell your students that ranchers are not the only people having problems with the bears. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, and ask them to identify how other people are impacted by the bear population, and whether or not they feel the people featured in the video are responding appropriately. PLAY Clip 4, “Bears in the Schoolyard.” (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask your students how people other than ranchers are being impacted by the bear population. (Home owners and restaurant owners have bears invading their garbage containers and making “surprise visits,” schools have had to erect fences to keep bears out of the schoolyard and away from children, some people feed bears and the bears have to be killed.) Ask your students if they think the people featured in the video are responding appropriately. Should the school build a fence, or cut down the apple trees? Should kids have to worry about being eaten by a bear on the playground? Should the restaurant owners have to invest in bear proof dumpsters? Who’s at fault. . .the bears or the humans? (Student responses will vary, play “devil’s advocate” and encourage students to consider multiple perspectives.)

5) Ask your students if they can recall from the “Windows into Wonderland” Web site what foods grizzlies eat in the wild, when they are away from temptations like garbage, cattle, and apples. (Students can consult their “Dare to Care for a Grizzly Bear” organizer; grizzly foods in the wild include: grasses, berries, roots, bird eggs, insects, elk calves, fish, bison, cutthroat trout, ants, small rodents, moths, and whitebark pine nuts.)

6) Explain to your students that scientists have determined there are four foods most important to the survival of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears. Unfortunately, the future of these four critical foods is in jeopardy. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, and asking them to watch the video segment and determine what the four critical foods are and what threats they face. They will most likely want to take notes. PLAY Clip 5, “Bear Necessities.” (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask your students what the four foods most critical to the bears’ survival are. (The four foods are 1. Meat, in the form of bison, 2. Cutthroat trout, 3. Moths, and 4. Whitebark pine seeds.) Write these four foods on the board. Ask your students what threatens the meat supply? (Bison are threatened by a disease called Brucellosis, which may force officials to thin the bison herd.) Ask your students what threatens the cutthroat trout? (An introduced trout from the Great Lakes that is serving as a predator of the cutthroat.) Ask your students what threatens the moths? (Pesticides and the warming trend at high altitudes.) Ask your students what threatens the whitebark pine seeds? (A disease called blister rust.) List the threats to each of the four foods on the board as well.

7) Ask your students which of the foods are threatened due to human activity. (Students answers will vary; students should definitely identify the trout and the moths.) Ask your students what impact the deterioration of these food sources could have on the bears? (It could bring the bears into more contact with humans, which would cause problems; the bears may not reproduce as much, limiting populations.) Reinforce to your students that while the bear population is climbing, and people in the area are having more and more problems with bears, the issues with the bears’ food sources poses a long-term threat to the bears’ survival. Remind your students that the grizzly received protection from the Endangered Species Act. Ask your students if they think the bear should remain protected, or if it should be “de-listed” since the population has rebounded. (Student answers will vary.) Ask your students who they think might want the bears to be de-listed. (Ranchers, farmers, hunters, and other people living in bear country who have had negative experiences with bears.) Ask your students who they think might want the bear to stay protected as an endangered species. (Student answers will vary, but may include scientists, conservationists, tourists, etc.)

8) Explain to your students that there are proponents on both sides of the issue, and that it’s very difficult to determine which side is “right.” Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify a) why some scientists feel that the increasing problems between bears and humans are a “success,” and b) why others feel that de-listing the bears would be catastrophic. PLAY Clip 6, “To List of Not to List” for your students. (Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.) Check for comprehension, and ask your students why some scientists feel that the increasing problems betweens bears and humans are a “success.” (The escalating problems betweens bears and humans show that the population has stabilized; efforts can now turn from “saving” the bears to “conserving” the bears.) Ask your students why other people feel that delisting the bears would be catastrophic. (It would allow for all kinds of development and building in bear country, substantially decrease the bears’ environment.) Ask your students if-given all they know about the human-bear problems, the long-term problems with food sources, and the potential consequences of removing protections for the bears-they think the bears should be de-listed or remain protected by the Endangered Species Act. (Student answers will vary.)

CULMINATING ACTIVITY

1) Explain to students that they will now be playing a “Yellowstone Bear Adventure Game,” which will simulate some of scenarios, obstacles, and perils facing grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Their goal will be to play the game, and then make changes and adjustments to it based on their knowledge of grizzlies.

2) Divide your students into groups of four. Give each group of students:

  • One 11×17 Yellowstone National Park Official Map
  • One 11×17 sheet of graph paper (either printed on transparency or regular paper according to the specifications described in the “Prep for Teachers” section at the beginning of this lesson)
  • One copy of the “Yellowstone Bear Adventure” game rules (PDF)(RTF)
  • One box, basket, or envelope of Bear Scenarios (PDF)(RTF)
  • Asecond box, basket, or envelope of “Outside the Park” Bear Scenarios (PDF)(RTF)
  • One compass printout, printed from Cardinal Points of the Compass
  • A minimum of five Teddy Grahams or bear-shaped animal crackers (feel free to give them more for eating)
  • Two brightly colored markers of different colors

3) Ask a student in each group to use one marker to trace a small part of the border of Yellowstone National Park from near Pyramid Peak (northwest of the East Entrance), to Parker Peak, located under the label “Shoshone National Forest.” The student should then use the other colored marker to outline the rest of the border of Yellowstone National Park.

4) Ask each team of students to lay the sheet of graph paper over the Yellowstone National Park map. If you have made the graph paper on transparency, they will be able to clearly see the park. If you did not make the graph paper on transparency, they should be able to see the park border outlines made with the markers through the graph paper.

5) Distribute five Teddy Grahams or bear-shaped animal crackers to each team. Tell the students that they will be using them in the game. Students should place one cracker or cookie on a single square of the graph paper outside the park and between Pyramid Peak and Parker Peak. Students should then each take one of the four remaining crackers or cookies and “customize” them by nibbling off a distinguishing feature or by marking it with a pen or pencil. Tell students not to eat these bears.

6) Review the “Yellowstone Bear Adventure” game rules with your students. Ask students to place all bears in their group in the graph paper square located over the Bechler Ranger Station, in the southwest corner of the park.

7) Explain to students that they are all “problem bears” who have shown up at Yellowstone campgrounds on multiple occasions, and they have been removed to a far corner of the park in an effort to keep them away from visitors. Ask the students to imagine that they were inadvertently separated from their cub during the relocation, and it is now their goal to be the first bear to exit the park and enter the Shoshone National Forest. They must exit the park along the park border from Pyramid Peak to Parker Peak, which is outlined on their map, in order to reach the cub, which is represented by the fifth cookie or cracker.

8) Ask each group to select one student to go first. On each student’s turn, the student should pull a single “Bear Scenario” out of the box, basket, or envelope, read it aloud, and move according to the directions it provides. Tell students that if their bear moves beyond the borders of the park, on their next turn, they should pull an “Outside the Park” scenario from the second box.

9) Remind students to put their printed out compass next to the Yellowstone Map, and position the compass so its “north” direction aligns with the compass on the lower right hand corner of the map.

10) As students play the game, ask each team to track and sort whether the obstacles and perils their bears face are related to 1) human interaction and/or interference, 2) environmental factors, 3) food supply, or 4) a combination of multiple factors. Students should continue taking turns until either a bear exits the park between Pyramid Peak and Parker Peak and wins the game by reaching the cub, or all bears are captured or killed. If a group runs out of “Bear Scenarios” while playing, they can return the used scenarios to the box, basket, or envelope.

11) After students finish playing one round of the game, ask the class about the obstacles and perils they encountered. Which were due to human interaction and/or interference? Which were related to food supply? Which were due to environmental factors? Which were due to a combination of multiple factors? (Student answers will vary based on gameplay experiences.) List the obstacles the students faced on the board.

12) Reviewing students’ gameplay experiences, ask students if there are any other scenarios (for either inside or outside the park) that they would add to the game, based on the knowledge and information they have obtained throughout the lesson. If time permits, ask each group to add the new scenarios to their game set and play a second round of the game.

13) Tell your students that you will now repeat the “GOOD/BAD/TRUE/FALSE” game from the beginning of the lesson. Tell your students that you will repeat the statements you said earlier in the lesson; after each statement, students should move towards the sign that most closely aligns with their current understanding or opinion (they don’t have to recreate their earlier positions, if their understanding or opinion is changed). Compare your students’ responses to each statement with their positions and opinions at the beginning of the lesson.

  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears live across all northern areas of North America.
  • Grizzly bear populations, which were once headed towards extinction, are making a comeback. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears are exclusively meat-eating carnivores.
  • For a long time, grizzly bears were protected by the Endangered Species Act. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears pose a serious risk to the safety of humans in and around Yellowstone National Park.
  • Grizzly bears attract tourists and visitors to areas like Yellowstone National Park. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Grizzly bears destroy multiple thousands of dollars in human property each year.
  • Grizzly bears can now be found outside of protected lands like National Parks. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Humans’ behavior towards grizzly bears has significantly changed in the last fifty years.
  • Grizzly bears sometimes consume humans’ garbage. Is this GOOD or BAD?
  • TRUE OR FALSE: Climate change will potentially have a catastrophic effect on grizzly bears.
  • Grizzly bears kill livestock owned by humans when it lies in their range or territory. Is this GOOD or BAD?

14) Explain to your students that in March 2007, the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Yellowstone grizzly population from the Endangered Species Act, effectively removing special protection for grizzlies in the Yellowstone National Park area. The de-listing may lead to more human development in bear country, lifting of hunting restrictions, and expanded rights for ranchers. Though the bears still have protection within the park, numerous groups are petitioning to have the grizzlies re-listed as an endangered species.

15) Ask your students to consider, based on the information they have obtained throughout the lesson, whether or not they think the grizzlies of the western United States should be relisted and given special protection by the US government. What challenges do the bears face? What risks do human beings face in grizzly country? As homework, ask your students to write a hypothetical letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service either petitioning to give the bears protected status OR reasoning why the grizzly should not be given special protection. Re-assure your students that the grizzly issue is complicated, and there is no definitive “right” or “wrong” answer. In their letters, they should cite a minimum of three examples of supporting evidence from the video segments, Web sites, or game simulation to support their position.

CROSS-CURRICULAR EXTENSIONS

SOCIAL STUDIES

Research the history of Yellowstone National Park and the development of National Parks in the United States. How has the park system-and its relationship to wildlife–changed over its history?

Track the decreasing range and distribution of grizzly bears in North America over the course of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

Research and describe interactions between early American settlers and explorers, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, and grizzly bears.

LANGUAGE ARTS

Examine how grizzly bears are represented in the mythology and folklore of various American Indian cultures.

SCIENCE

Research and identify strategies and products to insure human safety in bear country. Examine what the science is behind these strategies and products.

MATH

Research, write and develop grade level appropriate word problems based on grizzly bear biology. Possible topics for mathematical exploration include daily calorie consumption, range, and size.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Invite a representative of your local fish and wildlife service to your classroom to discuss local animals that cause problems in human communities. What tactics and strategies are used to deal with these difficult interactions?

Visit a nearby state or national park to discuss local wildlife and ranger strategies for keeping human visitors and animals safe.

Research threatened and/or endangered plants or animals in your area, and efforts underway to protect and preserve them.

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.