Predators In The Classroom

Teachers’ Workshops

SP-100 Predators in the Classroom–A Primer on Predator Ecology

Predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and eagles are among the most controversial wildlife species. Issues surrounding predators and their management are sometimes driven by emotions rather than facts. Predators in the Classroom: a Primer on Predator Ecology school enrichment curriculum was developed to present objective information on this issue to 4th through 7th grade audiences. There are four components to these curricula, including: Lesson plans for 5 class days; A 21-minute video; Interactive CD-ROM; Color poster; Exhibit with “hands on” materials.The module consists of 4 components: (1) a set of lesson plans which incorporates videos and learning activities, (2) a 21-minute video, (3)an interactive CD-ROM that allow students to learn about individual predators, their diets, vocalizations, etc., (4) a color poster featuring 12 common Texas predators.

Sponsored by the Texas Cooperative Extension. Funding was provided by the Sheep and Goat Predator Management Board.

A Note To Teachers

A predator is an animal that kills and consumes another animal for food. This definition includes everything from a coyote eating a rabbit, to a ladybeetle eating an aphid, to a robin eating an earthworm, and even a human eating a hamburger. Predators come in all shapes and sizes. While we tend to think mostly about only those that eat meat, i.e., carnivores like wolves and lions, predators also include the very small shrew, and thousands of species of predatory insects. They can be cold- or warm-blooded, furred or feathered, legged or legless. Literally, they are everywhere we look.

Predators are an integral part of the world around us. Their interlocking food chains (food webs) provide a means for energy flow throughout the ecosystem. But predators are also among the most controversial animals. They are “neat” when viewed under a microscope; “cool” when viewing a bald eagle seizing a trout from a river, but “cruel or bloodthirsty” when they attack animals that we as humans prize, e.g., livestock or cute cuddly rabbits.

The goals of these curricula are to:

  • demonstrate the breadth and diversity of predators that survive around us;
  • illustrate the adaptations that allow predators and prey to survive;
  • increase student’s knowledge about common predators they may encounter in Texas;
  • enhance critical thinking skills relative to controversies surrounding predators and their management.

There are four components to these curricula, including:

  • Lesson plans for 5 class days;
  • A 21-minute video;
  • Interactive CD-ROM;
  • Color poster;

These components are intended to either complement or substitute for the “predator – prey” curriculum materials that you are currently using. You may find these materials helpful for other segments within various life science studies.

The lesson objectives are keyed to TEKS and are multi disciplinary. This latter feature makes it possible for the departmentalized teacher to enlist the cooperation of other teachers in carrying out some of the activities (or reinforcing them in other classes). TEKS-relevant worksheets for writing and math are included for classroom use. In addition, you will want to mention other resources that are available in this subject area, including the possibility of local speakers representing various viewpoints about predators.

Some useful references on predator-prey relationships and especially relative to adaptations, photographs and artwork are several titles under the Zoobooks series, published by Wildlife Education, Ltd., San Diego, CA. There are several titles germain to these curricula. The video “Coyotes: A Matter of Perspective” is available at no cost to school teachers by contacting Ken Cearley by e-mail or Dr. Dale Rollins by e-mail

Project Wild Activities
Several Project Wild activities are included in the appendix. Project Wild is a supplementary conservation and environmental education program emphasizing wildlife for grades K-12. The Project Wild coordinator in Texas is Ms. Kathryn Hampton and she can be reached at Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept., 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744; telephone 512-328-6035.

Most of the materials used in these lessons are household supplies (e.g., pinto beans). Owl pellets can be obtained from several vendors. See your local science coordinator for more information.

Blackline Masters
Master copies of 14 worksheets and 11 TEKS worksheets are included for your use. You may wish to make overhead transparencies of these as you lead classroom discussions.

Local Experts
An appearance by a local expert is often a treat to the students. Prospective guest speakers on predators might include local wildlife biologists, university professors, and taxidermists. Good sources for names include the Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Animal Damage Control Service. Certain organizations like livestock growers associations, animal welfare groups and “environmental” groups also have perspectives on predators, but be forewarned that their information will not always be objective.

Test Instruments
Three tests are included:

  • a pre-test to be administered prior to teaching this module;
  • a 2-day post-test to be administered just after teaching the module; and
  • a 30-day post-test in order to monitor information retention. Each test consists of 10 overhead transparencies of various predators and 20 multiple choice or true-false questions.

Certificate of Participation
A blackline master for an awards certificate is included for your use in recognizing the student’s participation with the Predators in the Classroom project.

Comments: Dr. Dale Rollins