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Habitat Conflict


Students study ecological stress caused by the conflicting needs of humans and animals. Students focus on the bear/human problem occurring in a specific region and use the Seeing Reason Tool to investigate the question, What happens when human and bear habitats are in conflict? 


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How can we all live together?
  • Unit Questions
    Why does conflict occur between humans and animals? 
    What happens when human and animal habitats are in conflict? 
  • Sample Content Questions
    What are some common bear behaviors?
    What regions are having problems with bear intrusion?



This project idea makes use of the Seeing Reason Tool. Examine the Seeing Reason Web site and familiarize yourself with the tool.


Pose the Essential Question, How can we all live together? Have students respond to the Essential Question based on their prior knowledge and experiences. Next, guide the discussion to focus on human and animal interactions.


Choose one animal to explore this question. For example, after studying natural bear mortality and population statistics* for the Canadian province, students learn that black bears are doing well in British Columbia, except in the places where humans share their habitat. Bear intrusion is a problem that occurs when a bear's range overlaps that of humans. Normal behaviors such as food foraging and self-defense become intolerable when they occur in places inhabited by humans.


To set the stage for further study, students learn about a bear that was destroyed after intruding on humans a number of times. After considering the short history of Jake the Bear, investigate the Unit Question, Why does conflict occur between humans and animals? Ask additional probing questions such as:

  • Why do conflicts occur?
  • Why do bears become a nuisance?
  • What are some solutions to bear intrusion?
  • Should humans become involved?


Introduce the Seeing Reason Tool, and together, create a preliminary causal map around which students will structure further investigation. Demonstrate how the tool can be used to organize information, and show relationships between factors relating to bear intrusion.


Divide students into groups to study the human and natural factors associated with bear intrusion. Have them consult with experts as they conduct their research. Instruct students to revise and organize the factors of bear intrusion on growing causal maps. Have students and share their thinking and present their maps to the rest of the class. View each team’s map, noting their factor descriptions and relationships between factors to assess students’ cause-and-effect thinking. Use the Comments feature to give feedback, redirect effort, supply resources, suggest new avenues of study, and ask for clarification about the team's thinking.


After students present their Seeing Reason maps and visit with wildlife specialists, have them discuss their ideas for solving the problem of bear intrusion. Take anecdotal notes during student discussions to assess problem-solving skills. 


To help students draw connections between the unit’s Curriculum-Framing Questions, ask: How does the black bear's problem compare to that of other species?


Divide students into small groups. Use the B.C. Species Explorer* to find another sensitive species to study, such as the red-legged frog or wolf. Have students select an animal to research.


Engage students in research and have them revisit their original causal map. Then have them summarize their conclusions and write an "action statement", a recommendation for ensuring the health of a given species. Finally, instruct students to create an informative newsletter. Distribute a rubric or scoring guide that includes, and will be used to assess, the following criteria:

  • Information and location of species
  • State and explain the problem the species is facing
  • Human impact on the species
  • Conclusions
  • Action statement
  • Use of experts and resources
  • Seeing Reason map
  • Quality of work
  • Group participation


Hold a culminating forum, where students share their newsletters, and discuss common themes relating to species health in an increasingly 'human' world.


Revisit the Essential Question, How can we all live together? Ask students to share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Probe students’ deeper thinking by asking how and why their views may have changed since the start of the unit. Remind students to support their opinions with examples or facts.

Examine the Seeing Reason Activity

The Seeing Reason Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project. The map you see is functional. You can roll over the arrows to read relationships between factors, and double-click on factors and arrows to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Habitat Conflict (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question: What happens when human and animal habitats are in conflict?

Explore an interactive demo.

Habitat Conflict
Habitat Conflict

At a Glance

Grade Level: 5-7

Subject: Science

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Cause and Effect, Problem Solving

Key Learnings: Ecological Niche, Relationship Between Humans and Animals, Animal Habitats

Time Needed: Five 60-minute periods