Great Pieces of Ungulate Migration Content for Middle School Students
Big game migration content and activities connect with various middle school science standards.
- Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming Ungulates, has 70+ topics to explore. Check your local middle school/high school library, or county library for a copy. Purchase the atlas from Oregon State University Press or online booksellers: https://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/wild-migrations
- Elk River Film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS3P9gI7CUU
- Deer 139 Film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cpqy_Jzk43U
- 92 Miles Film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7RAGNhOKKY
- Migration Barriers Film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv5pzwbfH2k
- Migration Minute Video Series – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmKNyT69q20&list=PLf14a0UX8AU1qNfHukn_f9gmrThyV9SvK
- 400 Miles To Cross Film – https://youtu.be/QdoRvHj0Sa4
- Deer 255’s Migration Animation (March 2019) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58WKu_vKfu8
- “All This Can Co-exist” Mule Deer Migration on the Edge of Yellowstone Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_NuCbHMMRk
- On The Elk Trail Video Series – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvCEz0gUAAs
- Joe Riis Red Desert Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIAyb-1uwTg
- Capturing Wildlife with Joe Riis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI2DOLT-KEk
- Ungulates in Asia: “Saigas are straight out of Star Wars” | Animalogic – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUjjkAI56qM
- Oceanic Migratory Mammals: “Into the deep with elephant seals” | KQED – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQRGHjmoq-s
- Fish Migration Conservation: Super Salmon Film – https://vimeo.com/169336239
- Migration to Follow Rain: The Great Wildebeest Migration Animation – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF9YFyTAJiI
- See our YouTube playlists for more video content – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-1qijz4SUdhdv3_ucXwQEQ/playlists
Middle School Migration Science Activities
- Watch this video about the elk rut (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg4VeesS6_I), bison rutting in Yellowstone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4eOhuLDfeU), or the bighorn sheep rut (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ez7RUSCUhzk). Ask students a set of questions after watching these videos. Questions could include: Identify three ways they think the behaviors that males display in rut (breeding season) make them more successful at reproducing. Is the largest male always the most likely to breed? What ecosystem/environmental factors play into the rut?
- To help students recognize how changes to an ecosystem affect populations, play this ‘carrying capacity’ game. Use a combination of colored cards, knick-knacks, or snacks to represent resources such as habitat, food, and shelter. These items represent the ‘limiting factors’ on the landscape. Place the assortment of cards, knick-knacks or snacks in a few different large areas. These areas represent a home range. To start the game, have students act as the deer/elk/moose etc., asking them to go to different parts within the area representing their home ranges (you could tape out areas to help students see their home range). Once they arrive on their home ranges then the first round of the game can begin. Ask students to collect resources at a rate you determine, for example, you could set a timer for every 10 seconds, when the timer goes off students can race to a box, a table, a bucket with the different resources. You can make it harder to get resources by hiding them, almost like an easter egg hunt scenario. The game will be played in rounds. Each round represents a year of the animal’s life. After each round the teacher will count the number of items/resources collected and write the numbers down to be used at the end of the game. To make the activity more complex you can choose some students to represent predators/hunters. These students will be removing/harvesting one of the other students (i.e. deer) by tagging them with a sticky note. You can play several different rounds for different populations of animals with the teacher adding a different amount of resources each time. For example, in a drought year, you might only allocate half the amount of food, or you might insert blizzards (high mortality) Once all the resources have been used, you can ask your students to help you plot the data from each round. Identify trends and ask students if they can see the carrying capacity, or the number of animals that can be consistently sustained year after year, on the graph for each population.
- To help students understand impacts on the environment, ask students to look at a map and identify the nearest Wilderness Area, National Park, Habitat Management Area, etc. Then have students investigate the history of those areas that have land protections. Ask students how those protections influence wildlife population management, what would happen if these places were not protected, etc. Reference or watch this video in class as a part of this activity: Wyoming’s Big Game Migrations and 50 Years of Wilderness: https://vimeo.com/112181503 *Please note, that many places such as National Parks have a complex history in protecting the environment. The impact of these types of protected legislation often forced Indigenous communities to leave their homes and traditional lands. Further, the Wilderness Act defines wilderness as a place “untrammeled by man” where humans are a visitor that “does not remain.” And yet there is evidence of Native people living in places now thought of as wilderness for thousands of years. We recommend that teachers weave this important historical-social component into this lesson.
- To help students identify actions that maintain or improve ecosystems/biodiversity, use a migration corridor activity as an example. Have students look at migration maps from the Wild Migrations atlas or on westernmigrations.net. Ask students what challenges these animals might face on their migration journeys, and if there might be solutions to those challenges. Ask students why it’s important for migrations to stay intact and what might be the repercussions if a migration corridor is lost.
- Explore the connections between vegetative growth, elevation, and ungulate migrations through this lesson plan created by the Global Vegetation Project at the University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute in collaboration with the Monteith Shop. https://gveg.wyobiodiversity.org/index.php/educator-resources-1/middle-school
Middle School Cross-curricular Activities
- Storytelling/writing: Print out a scientific article published in a journal, science article published in your local media outlet, or other science related content. Ask students to read through the content and identify the story elements. What is the beginning, middle and end? Is there a plot, setting, characters, etc.? Then ask students to either write a short story or a poem about the research. Encourage students to be creative, for example you could ask students to take on the perspective of a big game animal as a lens to explain the research. Here are a few science articles on wildlife migration you can use:
- Visual Arts: Ask students to research a migrating animal and what it eats. Then have students create an art piece that informs the viewer about the connections an animal has to its habitat. Ask students if animals eat different things at different times of year, and how they plan to incorporate that into their work. Students could choose to produce the art with a scientific illustration style, or a more striking abstract style. You could ask students why they chose the style they did and how that might influence their target audience.
- Cartography/Data visualization: Guide students through a lesson on the elements of a standard paper map, then move on to a digital mapping software such as Google Earth. Ask students how maps can be used for scientific research and introduce them to ideas about analyzing data spatially. Download ungulate migration data from westernmigrations.net as an example. Ask students to import that data into Google Earth. Have students work through a guided worksheet with questions about the data. For example, what story does the data reveal? What other information can they gather from the map and the tools available to them on google earth (length of migration, elevation, etc.)?
- Social Studies: Ask students to read sections of the Wild Migrations atlas (pg. 35-45) that talk about Indigenous people’s connections to migrating wildlife. Have students answer questions about why wildlife are important to Indigenous cultures. Ask students to pick an animal and research the different uses of that animal in historic and contemporary Indigenous cultures, then have students draw a diagram/graphic representing their research and present it to the class or a small group. This is also a great small group activity depending on class size.
FOR ALL GRADES:
Suggested migration-related field trips / expert visits for different areas of Wyoming
- Take a field trip to a winter range area or a Wildlife Habitat Management Area, and write a report explaining why animals are there and what they are doing to survive. Or have a range manager visit your classroom.
- Have a local biologist visit your classroom to show you ungulate furs, hooves, antlers etc. and describe their yearly activities. Your local Wyoming Game and Fish Department office may have travelling trunks available for these presentations.
- Visit a ranch that is working on wildlife habitat enhancements or wildlife-friendly fencing projects.
- Have a highway engineer come speak about wildlife-roadway projects in your area.
- Visit the studio of a wildlife artist/photographer/filmmaker to learn about their work.
- Visit a museum and look at different wildlife art or Indigenous artifacts to see where migratory ungulates and their migration patterns are part of the exhibits.
- Have a taxidermist visit your classroom.
- Have a historian, archaeologist, or anthropologist talk about how their field of study relates to migration.
- Invite a Tribal elder, Tribal leader, or Tribal game warden/biologist to talk about wildlife issues, treaties, and sovereignty relating to Indigenous people.
- Invite a nonprofit leader to your classroom to talk about their efforts to conserve ungulate migrations and habitat.
- Invite an outfitter/sporting goods retailer/business person to your classroom to talk about their business and how it relates to migration.
- Invite a wildlife manager/policy expert/state representative/Game and Fish commission member to talk about wildlife issues.
- Invite a game warden to come talk about their work.
- Invite a college/university or nonprofit wildlife researcher to visit your classroom to talk about their research.
- Invite a tow truck/EMT/first responder/insurance agent to talk about wildlife-vehicle collisions, driver safety, and prevention. (Recommended for high school.)