My STEM Units

Monday, September 1, 2014

Game and Fish as a Resource

When one thinks of resources for STEM, resources such as universities, museums, and STEM professionals come to mind.  But what about your Game and Fish Department?  They provide an amazing amount of resources.

Arizona Game and Fish Department
For this article, I will focus on the resources made available by Arizona Game and Fish.  All states are welcome to use the information, however, classroom visits would be a little out of the question if you were in, say, Maine.  I encourage you to go to your state's game and fish (or "fish and game" or "wildlife") website.

Lesson Plans

Arizona's wildlife education program, Focus Wild Arizona, has a searchable website for lesson plans.  You can search by grade level, by tag, or enter your own search term.  The lessons span kindergarten through high school.

Some lessons are intended for formal educational settings (i.e., the classroom) and some are for home use or family outings.

Click here to start searching lesson plans, with full-color images, worksheets, essential questions and teacher directions.

Classroom Programs

Depending on your region, you can request a specialist to visit your school and do a presentation with the students.  In some instances, they bring live animals.  Contact the Information and Education Program Manager in your regional office for a list of available programs.

For instance, in my region, a specialist will come in and talk about the Mexican wolf.  On the other side of the state, specialists talk about venomous critters and big horn sheep.  Our state tests 4th graders on Science knowledge, and the department offers programs on animal adaptations for 4th graders statewide.

Each region has their specialties, but they are open to more programs.  Call them up and tell them what you are interested in.  Chances are they have something that fits or can write a new program tailored to fit your needs.


Az Game and Fish offer various professional development opportunities for educators.

Scheduled Workshops
One example of a scheduled workshop is "Black-Footed Ferrets: Science, Management, and Education"
"In this engaging workshop, educators will learn about the history and management of one of the most endangered mammals in North America. Following a classroom session full of student-ready activities, participants will assist on an actual black-footed ferret spotlighting survey with Department biologists."
Scheduled workshops are VERY popular and have limited space available.  They almost always fill up well in advance.  If you can't make it to a scheduled workshop, you can view professional development on your own time in a webinar.

On-Demand Training
Archived webinars and presentations are available online, 24/7.  You can even earn your Continuing Ed Credits (this is huge!) by completing a short activity and emailing it to the department.  Did someone just say recertification requirements?

The current offerings include:
  • Using the Conservation Education Scope and Sequence - Learn about this powerful new tool that will guide you through sequential learning about fish and wildlife in relation to content standards and performance objectives. (1 hour)
  • America's Wildlife: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow - Learn about a free standards-based curriculum designed for high school science and social studies classrooms. (1 hour)
  • Bald Eagles of the Southwest - Learn about bald eagle biology, status and management as well as some unique ways to bring this content into your classroom. (1.5 hours)
  • Know No Boundaries: Amazing Wildlife Migrations - Learn about some of the amazing migrations that occur in and through Arizona and the struggles these journeys provide for wildlife managers. (1 hour) 
If you can get 10 teachers together, Game and Fish will come to you!

We can come to you! Whether it is a college class for preservice teachers or a district wide inservice, our workshops are hands-on and full of resources that you can take back to your classroom immediately. Workshops are offered in a variety of formats, can last from 1 to 16 hours, and cover single, multiple, or all grade levels. Popular workshops include:
  • On the Right Track - a focus on historical and modern tracking techniques and hands-on ways to bring these into your classroom to guide science instruction and inquiry. UpperElementary, Middle, and High School. Usually 1-8 hours.
  • It's a Bird, It's a Plane - using the Wright Brothers as a theme, we explore the nature of science and the ways in which nature provides models for our own technological development. Upper Elementary and Middle School. Usually 1-4 hours.
  • Wild Connections: Literacy - we explore ways to integrate language arts (reading and writing) with science instruction.Elementary and Middle School. Usually 2-8 hours.
  • W.H.I. Ask Why: Wildlife and Habitat Inquiry - we explore ways to bring inquiry and experimental design into your ecology and environmental science classes. Middle and High School. Usually 4-8 hours.
  • Geocaching in Education - learn how GPS and GIS are revolutionizing science and some basic techniques to introduce these technologies to your students using a very popular outdoor hobby. Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School. Usually 4-8 hours. (


As if all the above weren't enough resources, Game and Fish offers more.  Some resources are online and you can access directly through the website.  Examples of this type of resource include computer programs, digital books, fact sheets, map apps, and pictures (lots and LOTS of pictures).  Our game and fish department even has it's own YouTube channel.

However, some resources involve pelts, skeletons, posters, and books.  These can be picked up at your regional office.

Resource Trunks (aka, Bone Boxes)
These "trunks" (really they are huge plastic tubs) are free to educators in Arizona.  They include tactile items (skulls, molds of tracks, etc.), lesson plans for teachers, and videos/audio recordings.  Disclaimer: please be mindful of cultural taboos before presenting any animal artifacts.

So, what types of Resource Trunks do they have?  In my region, they have the following trunks:
  • General bone box (featuring AZ mammals)
  • Elk
  • Bighorn
  • Bear
  • Bats
  • Wild Felines
What's do you do with a trunk? Let's look at the Wild Felines trunk as an example:
Jaguars once roamed across Arizona but were extirpated nearly one hundred years ago. However, these wild cats have recently been photographed on Arizona soil, starting a flurry of activity and debate. In this unit, your students will get the opportunity to explore the issues surrounding jaguars and their conservation.
Lesson Summaries
Make sure to read through the lesson and determine what knowledge your students are expected to know before carrying it out with the students.
  • Day 1 - Students compare various wild cats and then learn how to identify their tracks
  • Day 2 - After being introduced to the biotic communities of Arizona, students must find areas within the state that would be suitable habitat for the jaguar
  • Day 3 - Students study the stories and myths surrounding the jaguar
  • Day 4 - Using historic and current aerial photos, students compare the changind landscapes and discuss how this would affect migratory corridors and jaguar habitat
  • Day 5 - Students look at the history effectiveness of conservation activities and the Endangered Species Act in the United States
  • Day 6 and 7 - Students do some more research and present their new knowledge in a variety of ways (
Just look at the standards (grades 5-8) that are covered:


How's $10 million per year sound to you?  I knew that would catch your ear eye.  
"The Heritage grants are supported by revenue from Arizona Lottery sales and are available to projects that focus on wildlife, including wildlife education, schoolyard habitats and wildlife conservation efforts. In addition, there is a grant category geared towards helping schools fund field trips that take students outside to learn about wildlife and outdoor recreation. Potential grant recipients must have a project that is either located in Arizona or involves research in which the wildlife or its habitat is located in Arizona."
The interpretive trail at my school was funded by a Heritage Grant.  We have been able to incorporate the trail into outdoor learning experiences for all subjects (Reading, Writing, Math, Social Studies, Technology, and of course Science).  Students take iPads on the trail to take pictures of wildlife.  Students journal and write on the trail.  In fact, our trail will be featured on a radio show later this week.  **Check back later this week for a post about how to establish your own interpretive trail**

If you are interested in the Heritage Grants, you might want to act fast.  The deadline for applications is September 30th.  If you want help, you will need to act even faster.  Arizona Game and Fish Department will host a Google Hangout on September 2nd to help with applications.  You are not required to attend the hangout, but it is suggested as you will have a chance to ask questions and get information in real-time.  To sign up for the Google Hangout, click here.  

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