Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: The Wolves Are Back


The Wolves Are Back: written by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor

In 1926, it was ordered that all wolves living in Yellowstone National Park be killed.  This resulted in the wolf population disappearing and the rest of the animal and plant populations in the park being thrown off balance.  In 1995, ten adult wolves were put into Yellowstone in the hopes of restoring the natural balance of nature in the park.  Jean Craighead George tells the story of these wolves from the perspective of a wolf pup and his father.  Not only does the book describe the lifestyle of the wolves, but The Wolves Are Back does a great job describing the ways that the loss of one animal population effected the whole animal and plant system in Yellowstone National Park.

“The wolf pup heard a flycatcher call.  The Lamar Valley had not heard this flycatcher while the bison were there.  Bison break and trample young trees to keep back the forest so there will be grass.  Now the wolves hunted the bison and drove them back from the river.  Without the bison, the aspens grew.  With the trees restored, there were limbs for the flycatcher to perch on.  They sat there and sang.  The wolves were back.”

Curriculum Connections:
The Wolves Are Back is a great story to read with students when discussing animals and their habitats, life cycles, plants and animals and their dependence on each other in an ecosystem, food webs, the ways in which habitats change, predators and prey, and population and community.  This book could be tied in to lessons dealing with the Virginia Science Standards of Learning 2.5, 3.5, 3.6, and 4.5.

Additional Resources:
Jean Craighead George’s Website: This site includes a biography of Jean Craighead George, a complete list of her works, videos of Ms. George as well as sound recordings of animals, tips for writing your own story, and a short Question and Answer section.

Food Web Lesson Plan: This lesson plan includes information about food webs and chains and has a section discussing what happens when there is an imbalance in an animal population (as discussed in The Wolves Are Back).  A worksheet and answer key are also included.

Food Web Game: Students can choose between a meadow, arctic, or pond food web and must put plants and animals in the correct order to make the food web flow.

Wolf Habitat Lesson Plan: The activity in this lesson plan is geared towards encouraging students to define a habitat, describe what animals need in order to survive, and to discuss factors that may cause a population of animals to increase or decrease.  This plan includes a very physical and engaging activity and integrates the use of graphs.

General Information:
Book: The Wolves Are Back
Author: Jean Craighead George
Illustrator: Wendell Minor
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 2008
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 2-6
ISBN-10: 0525479473
ISBN-13: 978-0525479475

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