Windows into Wonderland


Physical Education 


The student will:

  • Participate in a hide and seek game, complying with all rules.
  • Create a line graph showing average life expectancies of bison in thermal and non-thermal areas with 100% accuracy.
  • Compare and contrast life expectancy curves, stating at least two differences and with 100% accuracy.



In Yellowstone, hydrothermal areas are considered critical survival habitat for the park’s central bison herd; but conversely, such areas may quickly become death traps.

Predator-prey interactions often take place at the interface zones between thermal and non-thermal areas, especially during the winter. Wolves have learned that bison are attracted to hydrothermal areas for food and warmth; and thus, they will often focus their hunting strategies on such sites. Once found by a predator, a bison or other prey animal can only run so far before it reaches the end of the thermal area. Then, suddenly, it is confronted with deep snow, downed timber, a river, or other obstacles. If the prey runs out into the deep snow, chances are good that it will soon be overtaken. If the prey hesitates at the boundary area, the predator closes in.

Recent research indicates that bison may play a high-stakes hide and seek game by switching among a variety of foraging areas rather than always selecting the prime sites. This strategy makes it more difficult for the predator to anticipate the whereabouts of its prey. At the present time, only one out of every five wolf hunts is successful.


The instructor will:

  1. Prepare the game area. Ten large cardboard boxes, such as packing or computer boxes, should be scattered randomly across the game area. If it is a problem to obtain suitable boxes, the instructor may wish to play the game in an area with multiple hiding places, where a student can be completely concealed. 
  2. Share the background information with the students and inform them that they will be playing a special hide and seek game to investigate how predator-prey wildlife interactions are affected by hydrothermal areas. Explain that hydrothermal areas offer special natural advantages that are very attractive to wildlife. However, these same areas may also become natural traps, as discussed in the background section. 
  3. Explain that the boxes (or hiding places) represent hydrothermal areas. If a student hides in one of the boxes, he/she will be unable to move from that spot (illustrating that prey caught within a thermal area are often trapped by deep snow or other natural obstacles beyond the hydrothermal area boundaries). The rest of the game area represents open bison habitat—students outside of the boxes are able to move freely, or may group as a “herd” to protect an individual member. 
  4. Choose one student to be the Wolf. The Wolf will be specifically hunting certain “selected” Bison. The selected Bison must be gently tagged by the Wolf. 
  5. Direct the Wolf to wait in an area where he/she cannot see the game area or hear the discussion with the Bison. 
  6. Select up to four of the Bison to represent more vulnerable animals. (The number selected will vary in each game). The selected Bison will wear scarves or sashes for identification. 
  7. Choose a Setup Card (see Attachment A). The Setup Card will dictate how many Bison will be selected and how many of those selected will be hiding in hydrothermal areas. Read the Card aloud to the students to be sure they understand the wildlife scenario they are depicting. 
  8. Tell the Wolf that he/she will have 30 seconds to tag a selected Bison. The Wolf may choose to hunt in the “hydrothermal areas” where the Bison are unable to move, concentrate the hunt in the open area where the Bison are clearly visible, or try a combination of both tactics.
  9. Keep a tally of the results and repeat the game until all the students have had a chance to either be a Wolf or selected Bison. 
  10. Discuss the game results. Ask students to express how hydrothermal areas affect predator/prey interactions and why.
  11. Reiterate that although thermal areas offer critical habitat for Yellowstone’s central bison herd during the winters, extended use of these areas will likely shorten the overall life expectancy of bison by five to ten years. One of the main reasons for this is that bison living in hydrothermal areas are less likely to survive a predation event. 
  12. Write the data sets on Attachment B on the board, and ask students to prepare a simple line graph illustrating the life expectancy curve of bison in a non-thermal area versus that of bison in a hydrothermal area.
  13. Discuss the life expectancy curves depicted on the graphs with the students.


Hot Spring Hide and Seek Rubric (pdf)


National Science Standards for Grades 5-8

NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.5-8.3 Life Science

National Mathematics Standards for Grades 6-8
NM-DATA 6-8.1: Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer
NM-DATA.6-8.2: Select and use appropriate statistical methods to analyze data
NM-DATA 6-8. 3: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data
NM-PROB-CONN.PK-12.3: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics
NM-PROB-REP.PK-12.1: Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas
NM-PROB-REP.PK-12.2: Select, apply, and translate among mathematical representations to solve problems
NM-PROB.REP.PK-12.3: Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena.

National Physical Education Standards

NPH.K-12.1 Movement Forms
NPH.K-12.5 Responsible Behavior
NPH.K-12.6 Respect for Others

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