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Pikas Lesson Plans

Food Webs: What a Tangled Web We Weave (Grades 4-8)

This new twist on a classic activity teaches students about the importance of species such as pikas and prairie dogs in their ecosystems.

Pikas and their Environment: Predicting Where They Live (6-8)

In this web-based lesson, students collect general information about the American pika, develop hypotheses and predictions about what limits where pikas live, and then use real scientists’ data to test their hypotheses and graph their results.

The Effect of Snowpack and Connectivity on Pika (Grades 6-12)

This engaging, interactive classroom activity helps students understand how snow pack, climate change and habitat connectivity can impact the American pika.

Pika Body Size and Adaptation (Grades 6-12)

This multi-part lesson focuses on natural selection of body size in pika populations. Part 1 focuses on the importance of body size in animal thermoregulation, using geometry to assess heat loss in different size pikas. Part 2 is an exercise in natural selection, in which students simulate several generations of pikas and how the population’s average body size changes depending on the environment they are in. Part 3 allows students to analyze and graph real pika body size data and interpret their results.

Pika Survival in Summer and Winter Habitats (Grade 4)

This lesson plan focuses on how a pika is able to survive in both summer and winter habitats. Students will identify suitable habitat for pikas using prior knowledge of Colorado geography and discover that pikas are only found in alpine regions of Colorado. A pika’s sensitivity to temperature is explored by understanding how behavioral adaptations help a pika survive in both hot and cold environments.

Pika Population Genetics (Grades 9-College)

The goal of this lesson is to answer the question: Are pikas living at low elevations genetically different than those at high elevations? Students investigate this question in two ways, both commonly used by modern population geneticists. First, students investigate general gene flow in these populations by looking at the proportion of individuals that are heterozygous in a population. Second, they will look at single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to identify DNA regions (loci) that may be undergoing natural selection and will use their creativity to guess possible functions of these genes. Finally, students will develop methods for testing their gene’s function and consider the ability of low elevation pikas to survive in the future.

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