By watching live-streaming video of wild bears on Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska, students feel the excitement of exploring science concepts in the real world. These three lessons, designed for grades 3-5, offer students the opportunity to engage in activities that focus particularly on the inheritance and variation of brown bear traits.
Every summer, the brown bears of Katmai, Alaska converge along the Brooks River to fish for sockeye salmon.
Why are there differences between the ways individual brown bears look and act?
Lesson 1: Understand the difference between inherited and acquired traits.
Lesson 2: Recognize that bears’ fishing techniques are learned, acquired behaviors that can be used as distinguishing traits.
Lesson 3: Identify brown bears based on their inherited and acquired traits.
Lesson 1 gives students an opportunity to express what they know about bears. They engage with the Guiding Question, “Why are there differences between the ways individual brown bears look and act?” and make connections between what they know and new ideas about inherited and acquired traits. Lesson 2 allows students to explore the phenomenon of brown bears converging at the Brooks River to fish for salmon. Students discover differences between bears’ fishing techniques, then turn and talk to explain to each other why the techniques are learned and not inherited traits. Lessons 2 and 3 further provide students with opportunities to elaborate: ask their own questions about bears on the live cams, discuss and compare their ideas, and develop a deeper understanding of individual differences between the inherited and acquired traits of brown bears. As evaluation at the end of Lesson 3, students review and reflect on their own learning and new understandings.