Windows into Wonderland


Language Arts


The student will:

  • Answer specific questions about how life forms in Yellowstone are affected by the park’s thermal features with 100% accuracy.
  • Search the Internet by using web links and remain on task 100% of the time.
  • Create a document that includes both the questions and accurate answers.



An active heat source in parts of Yellowstone National Park creates a large number of thermally influenced areas that affect the park’s living organisms. Following are some of the noted effects.

  • Thermally influenced areas provide habitat for heat-loving microbes that require extreme conditions to survive.
  • Thermal activity can provide much warmer conditions and lengthen the growing season and the variety of vegetation. In turn, this increases the abundance and availability of important forage for ungulates.
  • Thermally influenced areas and streams are used as movement corridors by both bison and elk in the winter, allowing ungulates to migrate to extended destinations. Once ungulates are familiar with such destinations, ungulate range expansion continues as a function of population size.
  • Thermal activity modifies the snow pack and ice cover in areas of the park. Reduced snow cover increases access to food and reduces the energy costs of thermoregulation and foraging in the park’s ungulates.
  • Sections of water in Yellowstone’s lakes and streams remain open most of the winter, providing habitat for waterfowl.
  • Prey animals are attracted to thermally influenced areas for food and warmth, and predator animals often return to the same areas because of the abundance of prey. The interface zones between thermally influenced areas and non-thermally influenced areas are often the sites of predator-prey interactions.
  • Dangers inherent to wildlife in thermal areas may include burns, toxic gases, premature dental decay, and resource competition.


The instructor will:

  1. Explain that living organisms in Yellowstone live in and are influenced by the park’s thermal features. Tell students that they will be investigating how different organisms are affected by such areas.
  2. Allow computer access. If necessary, review rules for Internet usage and copyright according to their school’s policies.
  3. Direct the students to open Attachment A and read through the directions.
  4. Instruct students to collect information as they search the websites provided on the Attachment A document.
  5. Instruct students to open the word processor program available on their computers.
  6. Instruct students to copy and paste the questions from Attachment A into a new document.
  7. Instruct students to type their answers onto their document.
  8. Direct students to print their answers.


Mission: Possible! Rubric (pdf)


National Science Standards for Grades 5-8

NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
NS.5-8.7 History and Nature of Science

National Language Arts Standards for Grades 5-8

NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for perspective
NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating data
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing research skills

National Technology Standards for Grades 5-8

NT.K-12.1 Basic operations and concepts
NT.K-12.2 Social, ethical, and human issues
NT.K-12.5 Technology research tools

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