The Florida Black Bear Curriculum Guide

The Florida Black Bear Curriculum is a joint project of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Defenders of Wildlife.

The Curriculum Guide is a comprehensive series of lessons on the natural history and conservation needs of Florida's black bear. Designed to educate and stimulate teachers and students in grades 3-8.

The lessons were designed to address many subject areas such as reading, language arts, history, geography, social studies, math, art and science. Each lesson is correlated to the Sunshine State Standards for each subject addressed.

Why study the Florida black bear?

Florida's black bears are fascinating animals that once roamed the state in large numbers. Because children are naturally interested in, and attracted to, large charismatic mammals such as bears, the Florida bear acts as an ambassador and introduces students to ecological concepts and biodiversity in a concrete and relevant way. Plus, it's fun to read, write and do math about bears!

Although the primary focus of the curriculum is the Florida black bear, the curriculum actually uses the Florida bear as a focal point to address broad and significant ecological concepts including limiting factors, carrying capacity, optimal versus marginal habitat, habitat fragmentation and corridors, habitat mosaics and umbrella and indicator species. The underlying message connecting all of the lessons in the curriculum is that the best way to save a species like the Florida black bear is to restore, protect and connect large tracts of undisturbed natural habitat.

More Information about the Florida Black Bear

Why the curriculum works?

  • Teaches students how to think, not what to think.
  • Each lesson is correlated to elementary and middle school Sunshine State Standards.
  • The curriculum was reviewed by biologists, environmental educators and elementary and middle school teachers and extensively tested in classrooms throughout the state.
  • a wide variety of instructional approaches are used to meet the needs of verbal, visual and kinesthetic learners.
  • Whole-class instruction and small group settings allow students to learn from and teach each other.
  • Resources in the comprehensive appendices offer guidance to teachers to further explore the black bear.
  • Lessons are flexible, can be simplified or modified and taught in any order depending on interests and abilities of students.
  • Assessment suggestions help teachers know how much students have learned.
  • Lessons require minimal preparation time and use inexpensive, easy-to-obtain materials.

Learn as you go!

Teachers don't need to be experts on black bears. In fact, the curriculum guide was designed for people who aren't. Teachers receive everything they need including 10 complete lessons, pertinent background information, blackline masters, worksheets, game boards, maps and full-color poster. Within each lesson, teachers will find activity length, material requirements, vocabulary words, art activities, answer keys and many more resources that take the guesswork out of teaching. Appendices include a glossary, references and additional resources.

Bear Activities are organized around a conceptual framework which address the following concepts:

  • Bears as a distinct animal group
  • Diversity of bear species
  • Human perceptions/views of bears
  • Florida black bear natural history
  • Florida black bear habitats
  • Factors influencing the survival of the Florida black bear
  • Ecological significance of the Florida black bear
  • Status of the Florida black bear
  • The future of the Florida black bear

Lesson summaries

Lesson 1 -What Makes a Bear a Bear?

(download this lesson PDF)
Key Question: How are bears different from other animals?
Main Topic: Major characteristics of bears

Format: Observation and writing activity
Description: Students compare and contrast pictures of Florida black bear and Florida panther bodies, teeth and feet. Using observation they determine major distinguishing features of bears.

Lesson 2 -The World of Bears
Key Questions: Where do the bears of the world live? How is the Florida black bear different from other bears?
Main Topic: Distribution, characteristics and status of the world's bear species
Format: Mapping and classification activity
Description: Students use descriptive information to map the geographic and habitat distributions of the world's bear species and classify bear species into groups based on attributes such as status and food preferences.

Lesson 3 - Bear Dilemmas
Key Questions: How do different kinds of people view Florida black bears? What are the main ways people interact with Florida bears?
Main Topic: Cultural views of bears and attitudes toward Florida black bears
Format: Values clarification and discussion activity
Description: Students use scenarios based on real-world issues to explore and discuss their attitudes toward Florida black bears and wildlife in general. They identify potential actions that can be taken related to Florida bear issues.

Lesson 4 - It's a Bear's Life
Key Question: What is the life of a Florida black bear like?
Main Topic: Life histories and cycles of male and female Florida black bears
Format: Board game
Description: Students play a pathway board game to learn about the significant events affecting Florida black bears at each stage in their life cycle. They also compare and contrast the life histories of male and female Florida bears.

Bear game group

Lesson 5 - The Black Bear Necessities (download this lessonPDF)
Key Question: What do Florida black bears need to survive?
Main Topic: Habitat requirements and types of food eaten by Florida black bears
Format: Role-playing game
Description: Students participate in a role-playing game to learn about the types and amounts of different food eaten by Florida black bears. Students also learn how limiting factors such as food can affect the carrying capacity of a habitat.

Lesson 6 - Bear Barriers
Key Question: How do human activities affect Florida black bear populations?
Main Topic: Influence of natural and human-caused factors on Florida black bear survival rates
Format: Role-playing game and math activity
Description: Students participate in a role-playing game to learn about factors that contribute to Florida black bear mortality. They solve simple math problems to compare and contrast the mortality rates of male and female Florida bears at different stages of their life cycles.

Lesson 7 - Tracking Bears (download this lessonPDF)
Key Question: Where do Florida black bears go during a year?
Main Topic: Seasonal movements and activities of male and female Florida black bears
Format: Mapping and math activity
Description: Students use clues to plot the monthly movements of male and female Florida black bears on a map and compare and contrast the home ranges, seasonal activities and movements of male and female bears.

Lesson 8 - Bear Neighbors
Key Question: What other animals live where Florida black bears live?
Main Topic: The role of the Florida black bear as an umbrella species for other species of plants and animals
Format: Reading and art activity
Description: Students use clues to insert pictures of common, rare, threatened and endangered animals into a mural depicting three major plant communities used by Florida black bears. They then discuss the concept of the Florida bear as an umbrella species.

Lesson 9 - Population Problems
Key Question: How does growth of Florida's human population affect bear populations?
Main Topic: Impact of human population growth on Florida black bear mortality rates, especially due to roadkills.
Format: Math and graphing activity
Description: Students interpret data tables and construct line graphs illustrating the relationship between human population growth and roadkills of Florida black bears over time. They also construct bar graphs to investigate seasonal differences in male and female Florida bear roadkills.

Lesson 10 - Oh Where, Oh Where is Florida's Bear?
Key Question: Where are black bears still found in Florida?
Main Topic: Distribution of remaining black bear populations in Florida
Format: Reading and mapping activity
Description: Students locate the remaining areas of Florida black bear habitat on a map and compare and contrast key characteristics of these remaining areas of habitat. They also explore the impact of habitat fragmentation due to development and urbanization on Florida bear populations.

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