Grizzlies Back from the Brink
Lesson

Overview

The grizzly, America’s great bear, has come back from the brink of extinction. In large part the success of the species’ rejuvenation is due to its protection under the Endangered Species Act. In this lesson, students will study the history of the grizzly bear in the United States, its decline in population, and the extraordinary effort made to bring the grizzly back from near extinction.

Students will view segments of the NATURE episode, The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly and will utilize a variety of Web sites to gather information about grizzlies and to understand the growing controversy surrounding their prevalence in the American West.

Students will examine the effect that the growing population of grizzlies has had on the surrounding environment and the people sharing the same land. The lesson culminates with an activity in which students write persuasively to defend a point of view relevant to the grizzly bear controversy.

This lesson may be used as either a pre or post viewing activity for NATURE: The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly or in an independent unit for the science classroom.

Subject: Life Science, Language Arts

Grade Level: 6-8

Time Allotment

Three 45-minute class periods (Culminating Activity may require additional in-class or homework time)

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the myths and misconception associated with grizzly bears;
  • Describe the characteristics, habitat, and behaviors of grizzly bears;
  • Explain the controversy surrounding the protection of grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act;
  • Articulate multiple points of view — ranchers, conservationists, and government officials on the grizzly bear controversy;
  • Write persuasively to defend a point of view focused on the grizzly bear controversy.

Standards

From the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning available online at: http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/search.asp

Science

Standard 6, Level III
http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/standardDetails.asp?subjectID=2&standardID=6

Students will come to understand the definition of an ecosystem: that it’s comprised of the co-existence of several different species in the same geographic space at the same time.

Students will know factors that affect the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support (e.g., available resources, abiotic factors such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition; disease; competition from other organisms within the ecosystem; predation.)

Students will know ways in which organisms interact and depend on one another through food chains and food webs in an ecosystem.

Students will understand relationships among organisms and their physical environment.

Language Arts

http://www.mcrel.org/compendium/standardDetails.asp?subjectID=7&standardID=7

Students will gather and use information for research purposes.

Students will understand a variety of messages conveyed by visual media (e.g., main concept, details, themes or lessons, viewpoints.)

Students will use a variety of criteria to evaluate and form viewpoints of visual media (e.g., evaluates the effectiveness of informational media, such as Web sites, documentaries, news programs; recognizes a range of viewpoints and arguments; establishes criteria for selecting or avoiding specific programs.)


Online Resources

 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Program
http://endangered.fws.gov/
This section of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site is dedicated to the Endangered Species Act. “The Endangered Species Act and What We Do”
(http://endangered.fws.gov/whatwedo.html) section of the site explains the act, how it is implemented, and includes a Kid’s Corner as well as local contacts. The site also has a search function to find up-to-the-minute information on threatened or endangered species.

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
http://www.Grizzlydiscoveryctr.com/
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is a unique not-for-profit bear and wolf preserve. Their primary mission is to provide visitors to the Yellowstone area with an opportunity to learn about, view, and ultimately appreciate the grizzly bear and gray wolf.

Yellowstone National Park
http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm
The official Web site of Yellowstone National Park contains information on the park’s history, a facts link, a search function, and a section especially designed for kids.

The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project
http://www.bearinfo.org/FAQ.htm
This site offers many grizzly bear resources including pictures of grizzlies, FAQs, the history of the grizzly bear, and tips for bear safety.

Windows into Wonderland
http://www.windowsintowonderland.com/bears/index.htm
Take your students on an electronic field trip to Yellowstone National Park. Explore bear ecology and history and the challenges of bear management. Students can also pose questions to experts.

THE WASHINGTON POST Article “Grizzlies May Lose Endangered Status
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1061-2004May29.html
This article from THE WASHINGTON POST examines both sides of the controversial issue of grizzly bear protection under the Endangered Species Act.

NPR’s Living on Earth
http://www.loe.org/shows/shows.htm?programID=99-P13-00001#feature1
This site houses the transcript of the “Grizzly Politics” episode of NPR’s LIVING ON EARTH PROGRAM.

Procedures for Teachers

Materials & Media Components

Video:

NATURE’s The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly

For the class:

Computers with Internet access
TV
VCR
Chalkboard or whiteboard
True/False and Not Sure placards for the corners of your classroom

For each student:

Grizzly Quest worksheet

Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as www.portaportal.com. Preview all the Web sites (listed at the end of the lesson) and video clips used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. CUE the tape of NATURE: The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly to just after the opening credits where you see the sign that says “Caution: Bears are dangerous” and you hear the murmur of a crowd. Make three signs on 8 x 11 paper. On the first sign put the word “TRUE.” On the second sign put the word “FALSE” and on the third sign, put the words, “NOT SURE.” Tape one sign in each of three corners in your classroom. Download, print, and make copies of the “Grizzly Quest” worksheet for each student in your classroom.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.


Steps

 

Introductory Activity

1) Tell students that they are about to learn about the majestic grizzly bear, its history in the United States and struggle to come back from the brink of extinction. Tell your students that before you begin your in-depth investigation of grizzly bears, you would like to assess their knowledge.

2) Explain to your students that you will be reading to them a series of statements about grizzly bears. Point out that there are signs in three corners of the classrooms. Tell your students that as you read each statement you would like them to physically move to the corner with the sign that accurately reflects their opinion. Tell students that they are free to present information or knowledge that they have to other students and try to convince others to join them.

3) Read your students the following grizzly bear statements and ask your students to move to the appropriate corner of your classroom after each statement is read. Do not offer any additional information at this time.

  • Grizzly bears live throughout the United States.
  • Farmers and ranchers can kill grizzlies that cause damage to their livestock and property.
  • On average, grizzly bears live 20 years.
  • Grizzly bears migrate south for the winter.
  • A grizzly bear’s diet consists of tree bark, apples, honey, and occasionally, people.
  • Most grizzly bear attacks occur when surprised by people.
  • Grizzly bears are generally twice the size of black bears.
  • Grizzly bears will feed on garbage if it is available.
  • Grizzly bears can run as fast as Olympic sprinters — up to 35 miles per hour.
  • Grizzlies have a prominent shoulder hump.

4) Distribute the “Grizzly Quest” worksheet. Tell your students that they will now investigate each of the ten statements for their accuracy and determine if each is a myth or fact. Ask your students to log onto the following Web sites: The Grizzly Bear Outreach Project at http://www.bearinfo.org/FAQ.htm, Windows into Wonderland at
http://www.windowsintowonderland.com/bears/index.htm and The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center at http://www.Grizzlydiscoveryctr.com/ . Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION asking them to investigate the Web sites and determine if the ten statements are myth or fact. If the statements are myths, students should rewrite them to reflect factual accuracy.

Learning Activity

  1. Tell your students that they are about to examine the issues surrounding the grizzly bear’s history and survival in America, specifically in Yellowstone National Park. Insert NATURE: The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly into your VCR. CUE the tape to just after the opening credits where you see the sign that says “Caution: Bears are dangerous” and you hear the murmur of a crowd. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to predict the cost of grizzly recovery. Play the tape until you see a grizzly running on a paved road and the narrator says, “Success always comes at a price and someone has to pay.” Pause the tape. Check for comprehension, and again ask your students what the price is for bringing grizzlies back from the brink of extinction. (Answers will vary.)
  2. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine who is affected by the recovery of the grizzlies? Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause the tape when you see rancher, Amee Barrus, sitting in her kitchen, and says, “we see ‘em you know, every month we see two or three.” Check for comprehension, and again ask your students who is affected by the recovery of the grizzlies. (Students answers will vary, however, lead them to see that local ranchers are directly affected by the influx of grizzlies.)
  3. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine how ranchers typically dealt with grizzlies in the past. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see rancher, John Barrus, sitting in his living room and says, “Now, they’re not scared of us, and we’re still scared of them.” Check for comprehension and ask your students how ranchers dealt with grizzlies in the past. (Students should know that up until the early ’70s, it was legal for ranchers to hunt grizzly bears. This helped ranchers protect their livestock. Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal for a rancher to kill the bears.)
  4. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine the role of the Game and Fish Department. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see the men lifting a grizzly into a truck bed and the narrator says, “…livestock, property, and public safety.” Check for comprehension and ask your students to name the Game and Fish Department’s responsibilities. (The Game and Fish Department is responsible for keeping the peace between bears and humans across more than six thousand square miles of mountains and forest. It is their job to trap and relocate problem bears — bears that have become a threat to livestock, property, and public safety.)
  5. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to describe the Game and Fish Department’s procedure for dealing with problem bears. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see Mark Bruscino talking to the camera and says, “…most of our complaints are coming from farms, ranches, or rural subdivisions, resorts, and those sorts of places.” Check student comprehension and ask what the procedure is for dealing with problem bears. (Once a bear complaint has been filed with the Game and Fish Department, the bear is trapped and tagged with a radio collar. The bear is then released into wild country. If a problem bear returns, it may have to be killed.) Ask students, “Where do the majority of complaint calls come from?” (The majority of calls come from farms, ranches, rural subdivisions, and resorts.)
  6. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by determining what the narrator means by the grizzly’s “extraordinary turnaround.” Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you hear the narrator say, “However, did we achieve such a thing?” and you see a bear climbing out of a trap and running away. Ask students, “What does Mark mean when he says ‘It’s kind of like fish jumping out of a bucket’?” (It’s harder to find wild country where bears can be safely released and relocated. They continue to come back into the local human population.) Ask students to frame the central problem presented in this episode of NATURE. (Students should understand from this section of the video that the law put in place to protect the grizzly has worked so well that there is now an abundance of bears roaming the park and the surrounding environment.)
  7. In this these next segments of video, students will examine the history of the grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. They’ll look at the decrease and increase of the grizzly population, the factors that contributed to the population fluctuation, and the law in place to protect America’s great bear. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify what factors led to the decrease in grizzly population in the United States. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see a picture of a U.S. map and the narrator says, “isolated islands where a few hundred bears were just hanging on.” Check for comprehension, and ask your students what factors led to the decrease in grizzly population in the United States. (In an effort to conquer the West, grizzlies were eliminated in most of the United States.)
  8. Tell your students that they will now look at the unique relationship bears and humans shared during the early days of Yellowstone National Park. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to describe the relationship between grizzlies and humans, and determine how the grizzlies lost their glory. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see grizzlies eating from a dump-site and the narrator says, “…the dumps were closed.” Check for comprehension, and ask your students to describe the relationship between humans and bears. (During the first days of the park, bears entertained tourists for the promise of food. Later, park rangers set up regular bear feedings to draw grizzlies for the crowd. Grizzlies became dependent on handouts, namely garbage, and had forgotten how to hunt.) Ask students to predict what they think will happen to the grizzlies once Yellowstone’s dumps are closed. (Accept all answers.)
  9. Explain to your students that they have just made a prediction, and that their FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION for the next clip is to determine if any of their predictions are correct. Play the video from the previous pause point and pause when you see a grizzly in a campground standing next to a tent and the narrator says, “…they got aggressive, they were destroyed.” Check with students to see if their predictions were correct. (Without handouts, grizzlies became aggressive, and as a result, were killed.)
  10. Tell your students that in 1975, the grizzly bear was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The recovery of the grizzly has been considered a major success, but this success comes with challenges. In these next segments of video, students will examine the new and growing population of grizzlies, and the implications the bears have on local ranchers and communities.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to calculate the average yearly increase in bear population since the early ’80s. Play the tape when the narrator says, “Left on their own, they have proven more resilient and resourceful than anyone predicted,” and you see a mother grizzly walking along a river with her cub in tow. Pause after you see a map of the U.S. that highlights the Grizzly population, and you hear the narrator say, “..two national parks and lots of private land.” Check for comprehension. Ask students what the yearly average of new bears born in Yellowstone National Parks. Have students calculate to total number of bears born between 1984-2004. (On average, 26 new grizzlies enter the population each year. Between 1984-2004, approximately 520 grizzlies were born in Yellowstone.)

11) Tell students that in the next segment, we’ll hear one rancher’s point of view. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to explain what the narrator means when he says, “But the bears don’t recognize these boundaries. And one man’s wilderness icon is another’s worst nightmare.” Play the clip from the previous pause point and pause when you see rancher, Terry Schramm, sitting in a brown leather chair and says, “Now who’s got the problem?” Ask students, “What did the narrator mean when he said, ‘And one man’s wilderness icon is another’s worst nightmare.’” (Students should understand that although the majestic grizzly is a symbol of wild America, the influx of bears has affected many ranchers’ livelihoods.)

12) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to explain what Stan Murdock means when he says,”…we’re in a dead man’s spiral with this cattle industry up there in the middle of those bears.” Play the tape from the previous pause point, and pause when you see Stan Murdock addressing the Wyoming Fish and Game Commission saying, “I don’t believe we ought to leave predators running two-legged on our streets, or four-legged in our cattle because the outcome can be expected.” Check for comprehension and ask your students what Stan Murdock meant. (Ranchers are feeling that they have no recourse under the law to protect their animals from the bears and will eventually lose their businesses.)

13) Ask students to recall the Game and Fish Department’s role in protecting the bears. (Their role is to keep peace between bears and humans.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to describe how Mark Bruscino of the Fish and Game Department feels about the bear predicament. Play the tape from the previous pause point and pause when you see Mark Bruscino talking on a car phone and saying, “…and I need some places to keep these bears.” Check for student comprehension, and ask, How does Mark Bruscino feel about the bear predicament?” Accept all answers. (Students should understand that it is a challenge to keep the balance between adhering to the federal guidelines and keeping peace with the local community.)

14) In the upcoming segments, students will be presented with two opposing viewpoints on whether to keep the bear listed under the Endangered Species Act. Fast forward the tape to where you see a grizzly in a cage, and you hear the narrator say, “Do bears still need our protection?” Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to listen to the two opposing viewpoints and record the reasoning presented. Play the tape and pause when you see a man with a grey mustache looking through binoculars and you hear the narrator say, “They’re treated to a thrill only Yellowstone can provide.” Ask students to share their findings. Fast forward the tape to where you see a pine tree falling, and the narrator says, “But all around grizzly country, development is picking up pace.” Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to continue to listen to both sides of the argument and record the reasoning presented.

15) Ask your students to brainstorm who they think would be in favor of keeping the grizzly bear on the Endangered Species List, based on the information they have gathered from the video. Then, ask your students to brainstorm who they think would be opposed to keeping the grizzly bear on the Endangered Species List. What do they personally think about the grizzly bear controversy? (Student answers will vary.)

Culminating Activity/Assessment:

The purpose of this activity is to encourage students to examine the relationships between humans and animals and how they impact each other’s environment.

1) Draw a PRO-”Endangered Species Act” and a CON- “Endangered Species Act” column on the white board. Using their notes taken during the viewing of the video, ask students to list the pros and cons of keeping the grizzly bear listed under the Endangered Species Act. Record all student responses in the columns you’ve created on the white board. Make sure students respond with facts that are based on their investigation rather than subjective opinion.

2) Ask your students who some of the individuals are that have a vested interest in the grizzly bear controversy. Who might be an advocate for delisting the bear? Who might be against delisting the bear?

3) Tell students to select an individual who has a vested interest in the grizzly bear controversy, and to write a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reflecting their perspective on the issue. The letter, whether for or against the grizzly’s protected status under the Endangered Species Act, must be supported by evidence. The letter must also reference the source of information used in the letter.


Cross-Curricular Extensions:

 

SOCIAL STUDIES/ECONOMICS
Explore Native Americans’ relationship to bears. How are bears portrayed in their various cultures? Have students research Native American artwork and myths involving bears.

ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS
Have students take a position as either a rancher, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife representative, or a conservationist. Have them debate whether the grizzly bear should or should not be de-listed from the Endangered Species List. As with the Culminating Activity, students must support their position with evidence and research.

Community Connections

  • Contact your local fish and game commission, and investigate whether or not there are any endangered species in your area.
  • Conduct an online interview with a bear expert from one of the Web sites under Online Resources.
  • Interview farmers or ranchers in your area, and research the greatest challenges they face in turning a profit.

ORGANIZERS FOR STUDENTS

The following links will open a new window. Each new window
will contain a Student Organizer or Activity sheet for you to print out. Close
the new window to return to this page.

Grizzly Quest worksheet

  • Austin

    It is great!

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