Whales are the biggest things your students can readily imagine. They’ll certainly be welcome in your classroom. We like to start a study of whales with a research project covering the basics:
- Begin by getting to know the physical characteristics of whales. One of the most important physical characteristics of whales is their size. Nikon’s Universcale is an amazing interactive that shows all the ways we measure things, from light years to things too small to be measured with current technology. Along in the middle there is a blue whale. Students will get an awesome sense of the scale of things, including whales and themselves, by watching this. Then visit the Whaling Times for data on the blue whale (other whales linked at the bottom of the page) and have students draw and label pictures of whales.
- The life cycle of a whale is interesting, because they are mammals which live in the sea. Since they’re mammals, they are born alive and are cared for till they get big enough to take care of themselves. Whales also eat in an interesting way: they have a filter that lets them eat quite small fish. They need a lot of small fish, up to 8,000 pounds of it a day while they’re feeding. Get the details at the Sea World Baleen Whales page as a starting point, and have students use books or online research to find out more about whale’s lives. Have students add a paragraph to their labeled picture, detailing the most interesting thing they learn about how whales live.
- Explore the habitats of whales by learning about the oceans. Whales live in all the oceans of the world. Have students use The World’s Oceans website with Blank Map Outlines to identify all the oceans. Further research will let students determine where on the map their particular whale belongs. Have students mark that place on the map and mount their picture, paragraph, and map on a poster board or large piece of paper.
- Use your classroom world map or a Continents of the World chart as the center of a display of the student projects.
Books on whales for your classroom:
- The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea
- A Whale of a Tale!: All About Porpoises, Dolphins, and Whales (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library)
- Face to Face With Whales
- Humphrey the Lost Whale
- The Snail and the Whale
- Baby Whales Drink Milk
- Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale
- Little Polar Bear and the Whales
- Baby Beluga (Raffi Songs to Read)
- Download a Teacher’s Guide for K-3 or 4-8 at the Sea World website. Scroll down for the Whales guide, but there are several other options that will be great for ocean or environment units. They include lots of information, hands-on activities, and reproducibles.
- The American Cetacean Society has lots of information and activities on cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises).
- WhaleNet has lots of resources with a focus on research.
- National Geographic has a lesson plan on beluga whales and their icy habitat.
- Discovery Education’s In the Company of Whales asks middle school students to research whales and their habitats.
- Sound in the Sea has a lesson focusing on the humpback whale, plus lots of resources about ocean sound.
- Enchanted Learning’s whale pages include a great variety of reproducibles.
- Pinocchio ended up in the belly of a whale. Enjoy this classic story while you study cetaceans.
Fun whale stuff for your classroom:
- Giant Bucket of Ocean Life Sea Animal Figures
- A stuffed whale for your reading corner
- A Folkmanis handpuppet