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Bears for Teachers

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What Bear Goes Where?


Students will:

  1. identify three species of bears and their habitats; and
  2. generalize that animals are adapted in order to live where they do.


Students construct posters of three different bear habitats.


Polar bears have long necks, slender heads and white fur. They live along the arctic coasts, mostly on the polar ice. They feed mainly on fish and seals. Their thick fur keeps them warm and the webbing between their toes makes them good swimmers.

Grizzly bears dig up most of their food so they have long claws. They also have a distinctive hump between their shoulders. They eat roots, tubers, gophers, marmots and smaller rodents as well as carrion. They occasionally kill a larger animal for food. Grizzlies tend to live in the edges of forests but feed mostly in mountain meadows. They have wide heads and a "dished" face.

Black bears are quiet, shy animals that live in a variety of habitats from forests to brush or chaparral. They eat mostly nuts, berries and fruit. They also eat rodents, insects and occasionally kill larger animals for food. The black bear may be black, auburn or cinnamon. Black bears are smaller than grizzlies or polar bears and have more pointed heads.

The major purpose of this activity is for students to recognize that animals are adapted to live in different environments, based on the example of three different kinds of bears.


  • pictures of the three bear species;
  • three sheets of butcher paper with the outline of one bear species on each, labeled;
  • construction paper;
  • pencils;
  • scissors;
  • glue

Age: Grades K-3

Subjects: Science, Art


  • analysis
  • application
  • classification
  • comparing similarities and differences
  • description
  • discussion
  • generalization
  • listing
  • media construction
  • observation
  • psychomotor development
  • synthesis

Duration: 30 minutes

Group Size: three groups of three to six students each; increase groups as necessary for class size

Setting: indoors

Key Vocabulary: alike, different, adapt, survive, habitat

Polar bear


  1. Show the students pictures of the three different kinds (species) of bears. Ask them to talk about the things that are alike and are different about the bears.
  2. Ask the students to imagine the place where each bear lives. Talk about what is alike and what is different about where the bears live. Think about how each bear looks and whether that helps it to live where it lives. Talk about "adaptation". Animals are "adapted" to survive.
  3. Take out three large sheets of paper on which you have drawn the outline of one species of bear in the center of each sheet and labeled it accordingly. (A photo of each bear will serve just as well.)
    NOTE: The outlines of each bear can be projected onto a chalkboard or a large piece of paper taped to a wall. Adjust the projected image until the bear's shoulder height is life size. The bear's outline can then be drawn to life size by tracing the projected image.
  4. Divide the students into three groups. Give each group one of the sheets of paper with the outline of a bear species and a supply of construction paper, pencils and scissors.
  5. Have each group draw and cut out elements of the habitat of their bear (trees, grassy meadows and rocks for the grizzly; blocks of ice, snow, fish and seals for the polar bear; forest trees, bushes, nuts, fruits and berries for the black bear) and glue these elements around the picture of their bear. (Make sure that examples of all major habitat needs are included: food, water, shelter and space in which to live.)
  6. Display the finished posters and ask the students what they have learned about bears and where they live. Discuss how each environment has characteristic life forms, adapted to its climate, kinds of available food, etc. Emphasize that all animals are adapted to survive.

Aquatic Extensions

  1. Look at pictures of three different kinds (species) of fish. Talk about the things that are alike and are different about the fish. Imagine the place where each fish lives. Draw a picture of each fish in a place where you think it could live. Find out if you are right!
  2. Find out more about the adaptations of different kinds of fish that make it possible for them to live where and how they do.
  3. Make a classroom bulletin board that shows, "What Fish Goes Where?" Show fish that live in ponds, fish that live in lakes, fish that live in streams, fish that live in rivers and fish that live in oceans. Include a picture of the appropriate habitat along with a picture of the fish.


  1. Describe three kinds of bears, what they need for food, where they live and how they look.
  2. If someone took polar bears to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and took grizzly bears to the Arctic coast-to you think the bears would be able to live in their new homes if everyone left them alone? Why?
Many thanks to Idaho Fish and Game and Project WILD for all of their help in this project. Information for this site developed from "WILD ABOUT BEARS", and is copyrighted by Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Idaho Project WILD. Permission obtained and granted to use this material for educational purposes. Photographic images were provided by the Department of Fish and Game and various other sources.

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