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Wolves At Our DoorWolves-At-Our-Door

  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will understand the following:
1. Wolves are social animals that live in packs with highly organized, complex social systems.
2. Some important similarities exist between a wolf pack and a human family or social group.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials on wolves
Computer with Internet access

Procedures


1. Initiate a class discussion about wolves. What do your students know about wolves and wolf behavior? Have they read books about wolves? If so, what have they learned?
2. In discussion, make sure students understand that wolves are social animals that live in packs with complex, highly organized social systems. Go on to let students know that, in some important ways, wolf-pack society is similar to human society.
3. Divide your class into research teams to learn about wolves. Instruct students to focus on finding ways in which the wolf pack is both similar to and different from a human family or social group.
4. Provide students with a list of words and phrases to guide their research:
  1. Teamwork and cooperation
  2. Alpha and omega
  3. Family devotion
  4. Group loyalty
  5. Hierarchy, or status in society
  6. Child (pup) rearing
  7. Sharing of wealth (food)
5. After teams complete their research, have team members create a comparison-and-contrast chart showing what they have learned from their research about the similarities and differences between a wolf pack and a human social group.

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Adaptations


Have students research and report on actual studies done on wolves and wolf-pack behavior.

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Discussion Questions


1. Discuss how wolves have been portrayed in literature and mythology. How might these portraits have affected our current beliefs about wolves?
2. Compare and contrast the wolf pack family and community with the human family and community. What characteristics do they have in common, and how do they differ?
3. Compare and contrast the characteristics of wolf pups and dog pups. What observable traits of the wolf pups are indicators of adult wolf behavior? Do wolf pups make good pets? What about hybrid pups (half wolf and half dog)?
4. Describe how positions may change in a wolf pack hierarchy. Compare this to human behavior. Consider family, school, and work situations.
5. Analyze the impact the near destruction of wolf populations in North America has had on its prey populations (e.g., deer, elk, antelope), and other related species in their environment. (For example, in Yellowstone National Park, the removal of wolves has increased the elk, antelope, and deer populations, increasing the destruction of vegetation and habitat—thereby decreasing other herbivorous species such as beaver and rabbit. [source: Playing God in Yellowstone by Alston Chase, 1987]).
6. Discuss the role of human intervention in deciding whether and how to reestablish wolf populations in the wild.

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Evaluation


You can evaluate your students on their comparison-and-contrast charts using the following three-point rubric:
 
Three points: chart reflects thorough, in-depth research; all information accurate; chart carefully prepared, clear, and easy to read
 
Two points: chart reflects adequate research; most information accurate; chart adequately prepared and readable
 
One point: chart reflects inadequate research; chart contains significant inaccuracies; chart carelessly prepared and difficult to read
 
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining a minimum number of comparisons and contrasts to be shown between wolves and humans.

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Extensions


The Wolf Is Back!
Have students research work being done to relocate wolves or reintroduce them into wilderness areas. Then have students act out, through research and role-playing, the relocation or reintroduction of wolves into an area. Assign students to represent and express the views of scientists, wolf conservation groups, farmers, environmental agencies, local citizens, and reporters.

Progress Report
Challenge students to find out what advantages being listed as an "endangered species" has afforded the wolf. What progress has been made in reintroduction programs? How do wolf protection programs compare to those for other animals? Students can contact and conduct a survey of wolf conservation groups for wolf population statistics and present their findings.

Food Chain
In the biology lab, have students observe the predator-prey relationship of protozoa under the microscope. After sketching their behavior, what comparisons can be made to larger species such as wolves?

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Suggested Readings


The Sawtooth Wolves
Jim Dutcher with Richard Ballantine. Rufus Publications, Inc. 1996
Find out more about Jim Dutcher's work with Idaho's Sawtooth wolf pack. Get unique insights into the social patterns and daily lives of the wolves with this book's incredible close-up photography.

The Origin of Dogs: Running with the Wolves
Virginia Morell. Science, June 13, 1997
In the observation of domestic dogs, nonscientists can witness remnants of wolves' behavior. The ancestral linkage of wolves and dogs are described in this feature article of Science magazine.

The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone
Thomas McNamee. Henry Holt, 1997
A discussion of the reintroduction of wolves to one U.S. national park as a wildlife conservation effort is detailed in this new work, replete with maps and an extensive bibliography.

The Wolf Almanac
Robert H. Busch. Lyons and Burford, 1995
This popularly acclaimed almanac is a compendium of general, detailed, and statistical descriptive information specifically about wolves, replete with illustrations and photographs.

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Links


The Searching Wolf
This site includes information, resources, pictures, a quiz, and a howling tutorial all about wolves.

Wolf Park Home Page
This site explains the mission and programs of Wolf Park in Indiana, a research and education facility dedicated to understanding and conserving the wolf.

Wolf Society Home Page
This top-rated site provides wolf information including physical and behavioral characteristics and track identification techniques.

Wolf Education and Research Center Home Page
Visit the Web Site of the Wolf Research and Education Center (WERC) founded by Jim Dutcher. The WERC is responsible for the care of the Sawtooth Pack, now located on Nez Perce tribal lands. At the visitor's center people can get a chance to see the Sawtooth Pack and learn more about the wolf's role in a complete ecosystem. Visitors can also learn about other endangered species and Nez Perce culture. The WERC was instrumental in funding for the reintroduction of wild wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. They currently work very closely with agencies involved in wolf recovery. New science and research has also been developed by the WERC with the Sawtooth Pack, using less invasive tracking techniques which, in the future, could eliminate the necessity of trapping wolves to radio collar them.

Ecological Decision Making
This is an activity to promote ecological discussion and decision making using the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

Wolf Howls
Enjoy these RealVideo wolf howls on NOVA! Bring the call of the wild right into your classroom.

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Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    predator
Definition: An animal that lives by predation (the act of obtaining food by the killing and consuming of animals).
Context: It is the only large predator in North America dependent for survival on a cooperative social unit.

speaker    wolf pack
Definition: A group of wolves who hunt and live together.
Context: The wolf pack, it turns out, is not a random collection of hunters, but an extended, closely knit family: mother and father, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles—all bound in a life of mutual concern and common purpose.

speaker    Saw Tooth pack
Definition: A particular group of wolves living near the Saw Tooth Mountains of Idaho.
Context: In a remote area of Idaho's Saw Tooth Mountains, one of these studies has focused for six years on the behavior of a unique family of wolves known as the Saw Tooth pack.

speaker    hierarchy
Definition: The classification of a group organized into orders or ranks, each subordinate to the one above it.
Context: With their heads and tails held lower than his you could see the strict hierarchy that maintains order within this pack.

speaker    alpha
Definition: Something that is first.
Context: The job of maintaining pack order falls mainly to the pack alpha or leader. In the Saw Tooth pack the alpha was a male called Kamotz.

speaker    beta
Definition: The wolf that is subordinate only to the alpha in a pack of wolves.
Context: Mottsie, second in command as the beta wolf, serves as the pack's puppy-sitter and peacemaker.

speaker    omega
Definition: The wolf that is subordinate to the rest of the pack.
Context: The pack's omega, lowest in rank, constantly yields to the others, who often treat it like a scapegoat.

speaker    Nez Perce
Definition: A member of an American Indian tribe of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
Context: To the northwest of the project lie the traditional homelands of the Nez Perce Tribe, a once-powerful Indian tribe that long ago befriended Lewis and Clark.

speaker    howl
Definition: To emit a loud, sustained, doleful sound.
Context: Just as they have distinctive personalities, wolves each have a unique howl.

speaker    outerguard hair
Definition: One of the long, coarse hairs forming a protective coating over the undercoat of a wolf.
Context: So little heat escapes their bodies. A double coat of outerguard hairs and an underfur as dense as wool...

speaker    breeding season
Definition: The time of mating and producing offspring.
Context: Although snowfall doesn't alter behavior, there is a new mood in the pack: the breeding season has begun.

speaker    in heat
Definition: A regularly recurrent state of sexual excitability during which the female wolf will accept the male and is capable of conceiving.
Context: Jamie noticed that both Chamook and Wyakin are in heat, and it hasn't gone unnoticed by the males in the pack.

speaker    alpha female
Definition: The dominant female in a pack of wolves.
Context: She would not only become the mother of the family, but the alpha female—the dominant member of the female hierarchy.

speaker    alpha pair
Definition: The alpha male and the alpha female in a pack of wolves.
Context: Usually, only the alpha pair mate.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that all organisms, including the human species, are part of and depend on two main global food webs; one global food web starts with microscopic ocean plants and seaweed and includes the animals that feed on them and subsequent animals that feed on the plant-eating animals; the other global food web begins with land plants and includes the animals that feed on them and so forth.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that organisms can be classified according to the function they serve in a food chain (producer, consumer and/or decomposer of organic matter) and by the details of their internal and external features.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands the genetic basis for the transfer of biological characteristics from one generation to the next.
Benchmarks:
Knows that reproduction is a characteristic of all living systems; since no individual organism lives forever, reproduction is essential to the continuation of species.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that all organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain a relatively stable internal environment while living in a constantly changing external environment; regulation of an organism's internal environment evolves sensing external changes and changing physiological activities to keep within the range required to survive.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that behavior is one kind of response an organism may make to an internal or environmental stimulus, and may be determined by heredity or from past experience; a behavioral response requires coordination and communication at many levels including cells, organ systems, and whole organisms.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that all species ultimately depend on one another; interactions between two types of organisms include producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host, and relationships that can be mutually beneficial or competitive.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that populations consist of all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place; all of the populations living together (community) and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems; the interrelationships and interdependencies of the organisms may generate ecosystems that are stable for hundreds of thousands of years.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that humans are increasingly modifying ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption; human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly damaged.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: history
Standard:
Understands the historical perspective.
Benchmarks:
Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and the role their values played in influencing history.

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Credit


Louise Roy Fowler, science teacher, Oak Crest School, Silver Spring, Maryland.

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