Materials List: Backyard Bear by Ann Rockwell or other literature resource, game directions, large outdoor area, boundary markers, tokens or construction paper (approx. 10 pieces per student), whistle (optional)
Teacher Note: This activity is best conducted outdoors or in a large area such as the gymnasium because of the space needed for the movement of the students. Review the classroom safety contract (see Unit 1) with students and include specific safety procedures for outside activities.
Discuss with students the essential components of habitats that enable animals to survive (e.g., food, water, and shelter). Share the story, Backyard Bear by Ann Rockwell, or a similar story about habitat loss. Facilitate a discussion of what happens to the habitats of animals as forests are cut down to make way for subdivisions, shopping centers, or other types of construction. Tell the students they are going to play a game that demonstrates what happens to the food supply when habitat loss occurs.
This game is called “The Bear Necessities.” It is helpful for organization to use boundary markers and tokens or pieces of construction paper to represent food. Divide the class into three groups. Distribute the “food” within a marked habitat area. Explain to the students that they will be “bears.” In order to survive and be healthy, they need to collect at least 20 pieces of food in this habitat area. Have one of the groups line up at a designated starting point as the other 2 groups watch. Determine a start and stop signal (a whistle works well). When the signal is given, the children should gather as many pieces of food as they can. Once all of the food is gathered, have students count their pieces of food and decide if they have gathered enough food to survive and be healthy.
Redistribute the food pieces. Have the second group stand and join the first group. Explain that the second group has lost their habitat when a company built a new mall. Now they need to share the habitat of the first group. Give the signal for the students to begin gathering food. Once the students have gathered the food pieces, have them count to see if they gathered enough food. Discuss with the students why they had a harder time gathering enough food to survive and be healthy. Help students understand the effect of more animals in a habitat area. When the habitat area is made smaller due to things such as natural disasters or human activities like the building of new subdivisions and stores, more animals have to find food in a smaller area. This makes it more difficult for the animals to find enough food to survive and stay healthy.
Redistribute the food for a final time. This time allow all of the students to gather food. Have students discuss the results and what they believe will happen to populations of animals who experience significant habitat loss.
Ask students: What did you discover about habitats? What factors can create problems for the animals that inhabit them? What can we do to help?