Wolves: Friend or Foe?


For centuries, wolves have been the object of fear and hatred for many people, and, for many, these feelings still run deep. Over eighty years ago, wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone. The wolf has only recently been re-introduced back into many ecosystems, including Yellowstone. In this lesson, students will create an interactive map that may be used as a tool to educate people on where and how the wolves of Yellowstone live. Students will also examine why the wolf is considered to be a keystone species, and create an informational program to educate people as to the benefits of the wolves’ presence in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Grade level: Grades 9 – 12

Subject areas: Geography, Science, Language Arts

Learning objectives:

Students will be able to do the following:

Utilize Google’s mapping technology to create an informative, interactive map of wolves in Yellowstone. Analyze information to create an educational program about the impact of wolves on Yellowstone’s ecosystem.


Bookmark the following sites:

Google Earth
This website contains interactive maps and satellite/aerial imagery of the United States.

Explore Google Maps
This site contains a tour that may be used to learn about the unique features available to use in the creation of a personal Google Map.

The Total Yellowstone Page
This site contains information about the location of the various packs of wolves in Yellowstone.

National Wildlife Foundation
This website contains the article “A Top Dog Takes Over.”

NPR: Talk of the Nation, August 19, 2005
This site contains a program entitled “Re-wilding the Great Plains.”



Level IV [Grade: 9-12]


Standard 1. Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies

2. Knows the characteristics and uses of geographic technologies (e.g., geographic information systems (GIS) and satellite-produced imagery)

3. Transforms primary data into maps, graphs, and charts (e.g., charts developed from recent census data ranking selected information on various topics, cartograms depicting the relative sizes of Latin American countries based on their urban populations)

Language Arts

Writing Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Level IV [Grade: 9-12]

1. Uses criteria to evaluate own and others’ effectiveness in group discussions and formal presentations (e.g., accuracy, relevance, and organization of information; clarity of delivery; relationships among purpose, audience, and content; types of arguments used; effectiveness of own contributions)

4. Adjusts message wording and delivery to particular audiences and for particular purposes (e.g., to defend a position, to entertain, to inform, to persuade)

5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)

6. Makes multimedia presentations using text, images, and sound (e.g., selects the appropriate medium, such as television broadcast, videos, web pages, films, newspapers, magazines, CD-ROMS, Internet, computer-media-generated images; edits and monitors for quality; organizes, writes, and designs media messages for specific purposes)

7. Uses a variety of verbal and nonverbal techniques for presentations (e.g., modulation of voice; varied inflection; tempo; enunciation; physical gestures; rhetorical questions; word choice, including figurative language, standard English, informal usage, technical language) and demonstrates poise and self-control while presenting

Life Sciences

Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment 1. Knows how the interrelationships and interdependencies among organisms generate stable ecosystems that fluctuate around a state of rough equilibrium for hundreds or thousands of years (e.g., growth of a population is held in check by environmental factors such as depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss due to larger numbers of predators or parasites)

Standard 7. Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life

3. Knows how variation of organisms within a species increases the chance of survival of the species, and how the great diversity of species on Earth increases the chance of survival of life in the event of major global changes

ISTE Technology Standards

National Educational Technology Standards


GRADES 9 – 12

Performance Indicators:

All students should have opportunities to demonstrate the following performances.

Prior to completion of Grade 12 students will:

Routinely and efficiently use online information resources to meet needs for collaboration, research, publication, communication, and productivity. (4, 5, 6)

Select and apply technology tools for research, information analysis, problem solving, and decision making in content learning. (4, 5)

Collaborate with peers, experts, and others to contribute to a content-related knowledge base by using technology to compile, synthesize, produce, and disseminate information, models, and other creative works. (4, 5, 6)

Procedures for Teachers

Introductory Activity

The purpose of this activity is to introduce students to the Google Earth website and to activate background knowledge about Yellowstone.

Time for completion: 30 minutes

Teacher Note: In preparation for this activity, make sure that Google Earth software is downloaded onto your computer. If it isn’t, you may download it for free at http://earth.google.com/

Send students to the Google Earth web site. Depending on the number of computers you have access to, this activity may be completed as an individual, small-group, or whole-class activity.

Tell students that they are going to use the cursor to navigate to the following coordinates: 44.27N – 110.22W. It is not necessary to be completely precise with the location. Before beginning, you may choose to ask students to predict what area of the world these coordinates correspond to.

After students have discovered that they are in Yellowstone, tell them that they are going to use the site to explore and gather information about Yellowstone. Explain to students that the graphic web layer contains content that has been contributed by Wikipedia and Panoramio. Ask students to record five pieces of information, or observations, about Yellowstone from the Google Earth website.

After students have finished collecting information, provide time for students to share what they discovered about Yellowstone.


Activity One

In this activity, students will use the Google Maps website to create an interactive map that informs people of where and how the wolves of Yellowstone live.

Time for completion: Two 50-minute class periods

Tell students that they are going to create a map that shows where and how wolves of Yellowstone live. Explain to students that they will use the tools on the Google Maps website to create the map. As a class, visit the link listed below to take the online tour of Google Maps. When the page opens, click on the “Create a Map” button to begin the tour. http://www.google.com/help/maps/tour/#create_a_map

Teacher Note: This activity may be completed as an individual, paired, or small-group assignment.

Pass out the “Wolves of Yellowstone Map” rubric and review with students. Explain to students that they should incorporate as many of the Google Map features as possible into their maps. Before beginning you may want to review the following features of Google Maps and discuss how they might be used in this particular task:

Place markers with the informational balloons: This feature may be used to add informational text about the wolves and/or Yellowstone to the map. Line tool: This tool may be used to draw a line or highlight the areas of the map where the wolves live. Photos: Importation of photos of wolves or geographic features of Yellowstone may be added to the map. Embedding a video: Students may find an appropriate video to embed in the map. If possible, students may choose to incorporate the clips of the “In the Valley of the Wolves” program found on the Nature website.

Teacher Note: There are several options for this assignment. You may choose to have students create a map that shows where all of the wolf packs are located in Yellowstone, focus on the Druid pack that was featured in “In the Valley of the Wolves,” or focus on one of the packs highlighted in the Yellowstone website listed below. This site shows where the various wolf packs live in Yellowstone and also contains additional information about the Yellowstone wolves. http://www.yellowstone-natl-park.com/wolfmap.htm

After students have completed their maps, provide time for them to present their maps to the class.

Activity Two

In this activity students will investigate the wolf, people’s perceptions of the wolf, and the ways the wolf impacts ecosystems. They will create a program to educate people about why the wolf has been reintroduced into ecosystems from which it was once eliminated.

Time for completion: Two – 50 minute class periods, and several homework assignments

Write the definition for a keystone species on the board.

Keystone Species – Species who enrich ecosystem function in a unique and significant manner through their activities, and the effect is disproportionate to their numerical abundance. Their removal initiates changes in ecosystem structure and often loss of diversity. http://www.pima.gov/cmo/sdcp/kids/gloss.html

Watch “In the Valley of the Wolves” from 04:14 to 09:45, and from 43:35 to 45:22. After viewing the clips, ask students to give examples of how the wolves’ behavior in the program indicates that they are a keystone species.

Explain to students that eighty years ago wolves were eradicated from Yellowstone and that they were only fairly recently re-introduced to the park. Tell students that they are going to gather examples of how the wolves’ presence in the valley has benefited the ecosystem. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to read the “A Top Dog Takes Over” article on the National Wildlife Foundation’s website, and the “Reintroduction of the Wolves” article on the Nature website. The “A Top Dog Takes Over” article may be found at http://www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?articleId=829&issueId;=64. Tell students to write down examples of the ways that the wolves’ presence in Yellowstone has benefited the ecosystem. After students have finished, have the groups share and discuss what they learned with the entire class.

Discuss how fear of the wolf played a role in the past extermination of wolves. Ask students to give examples of how wolves have been portrayed as scary creatures in children’s stories. Involve students in a short discussion as to whether or not they think the portrayal of wolves as evil creatures in children’s stories had any impact on the eradication of the wolf in places around the world.

Because some people do possess a fear of wolves that may or may not be based on factual information, people may be a little unsettled by the reintroduction of wolves into places around the country. Tell students that they are going to work in small groups to create a program that will educate people on the topic of why wolves are being re-introduced to places around the country and particularly why they have been reintroduced into Yellowstone. Pass out and discuss the “Wolf Reintroduction Program Organizer” and the “Wolf Reintroduction Presentation” rubric.

Provide time for students to develop and present their programs.

Assessment Suggestions

The “Wolves of Yellowstone Map” rubric may be used to evaluate Activity One. The “Wolf Reintroduction Presentation” rubric may be used to assess Activity Two.

Extension Activity

Investigate the concept of “re-wilding” North America. Have students listen to and discuss NPR’s Talk of the Nation program “Re-wilding the Great Plains.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4806987

Talk of the Nation, August 19, 2005

About the Author

Laurel Blaine is founder of Digital Narratives LLC, a curriculum design company. In addition to content development, Digital Narratives also works with young people to enhance their literacy skills as they explore the power of digital storytelling. Over the past decade, Laurel has created educational materials for a diverse range of clients including The Kennedy Center, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Learning Matters/Listen Up! and Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

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