Grade: 3-5
Subject: Science

#3285. Whale Adaptation

Science, level: 3-5
Posted Tue Dec 13 11:20:09 PST 2011 by Emily Keber (Emily Keber).
Hunter College, New York, NY
Concepts Taught: How do whales stay warm?

Name: Emily Keber

Date of Lesson: September 28, 2010

Grade Level: 3/4
Approximate Time to Implement Lesson: 40 minutes

NYS Learning Standards:
Mathematics, Science and Technology Standard 1, 4
ELA Standard 1
Geography Standard 3

Objective: Students will be able to define adaptation and compare various adaptations of marine organisms that live in the ocean. In addition, students will use the Scientific Method to understand the adaptation of a whale to survive in the cold water.

Rationale: As part of a scientific unit on Oceans, students will have already created Venn Diagrams in regards to the similarities and differences in marine organisms. Next, we will learn about adaptation and how certain marine organisms have adapted to survive in their environment. We will use a hands on approach with whales to show the students just how the adaptation works. They will use critical thinking, hypothesizing and drawing conclusions based on experimentation.

Materials List:
• Chalkboard/Smart board
• Picture of Blue Whale
• Long piece of string-80 feet
• Modeling clay-about the size of a golf ball, 1 ball per student
• Large bowl of ice water per group
• Stop watch-one per group
• Paper to write hypothesis on
• Books on adaptation
• Pictures of marine organisms that use adaptation

Anticipated Progression of Lesson

Aim: How do whales stay warm?

Do Now: Can you name the largest whale and how many feet long do you think it is?

Motivation: How big is a Blue Whale?
Go into the hallway/gym/outside with the ball of string and have students slowly unravel it until it is just a straight line, each of them holding a portion of it. Explain that this is the average size of a Blue Whale. Compare parts of the Blue Whale to commonly known objects -e.g. "the heart is the size of a Volkswagen Bug" or "a human could crawl through the aorta". Compare sizes of other large animals to the Blue Whale to further impress upon them how big it is (Elephant, Giraffe, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Brachiosaurus etc.)


• Gather the students in a group on the rug and ask them if they know what adaptation means and define it.
• Show pictures of marine organisms and explain how each one of them uses adaptation to stay alive (attached document) (
• Extract from students ways in which humans stay warm in cold weather/water.
• Extract from students how they think whales survive in cold water?
• Have students gather around an ice water bowl at the front of the classroom.
• Have students hypothesize what will happen if they put their finger into the ice water.
• Have them record their response on their worksheet.
• Have students place a finger into water until it is too cold-time how long they kept their finger in the ice water and record on worksheet (instruct student to remove finger if it becomes blue or numb).

Independent/Group Work Time:

• Introduce them to blubber and how it insulates whales.
• Break students up into groups and give them an ice water bowl.
• Have each student hypothesize what will happen if their finger is covered in "blubber" and record response on worksheet.
• Have each student wrap modeling clay around their finger, making sure there are no holes and place finger back in ice water.
• Time and record how long their finger could remain in the water surrounded by "blubber"
• Compare results of the two experiments and have the students form a conclusion about how blubber works.

Share-out/closure: Have the students write a short paragraph describing how/why they arrived at their conclusion. Students are encouraged to share their conclusions with the class.

Anticipated Extension: Students will begin to create their own marine organism. They can use the internet, books, or other means of gathering ideas. Students need to specify where the marine organism will live, how it can survive there (what special body parts or abilities it has), and how it will defend/prey on other marine organisms. Students are encouraged to be creative with this, drawing a picture of the marine organism and its habitat. Their marine organisms will be displayed on the classroom wall.