Marine Mammals

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Audiences: Pre-school, Elementary School, Middle School, Adults

N.H. Curriculum Framework Strands: LS-1, LS-2, LS-3

Ocean Literacy Principles:
The earth has one big ocean with many features.
#2 The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
#3 The oceans and humans are inextricably connected.

Program Summary:

This engaging program begins with a PowerPoint presentation that illustrates the characterisitics and physical and behavioral adaptations of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Docents interact with participants by asking questions and encouraging thoughtful discussion.

Participants explore the similarities and differences among whales, dolphins, porpoises and the special adapations that allow for finding food, breathing and staying warm in the Atlantic sea water through several hands on activities.

These hands-on activities are offered to participants in small groups. The activities help students to compare the sizes of whales, investigate the feeding techniques of baleen and toothed whales, understand sound and echolocation, learn how whales keep warm, and become familiar with physical features of different whales.

Program Outline

 Program Activities

Introduction to Gulf of Maine
Characteristics of mammals
Characteristics of marine mammals
Varieties of marine mammals 

Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises (Cetaceans)
Variety of sizes

  • Breathing
  • Moving through water
  • Keeping warm


  • Baleen whales - lunge feeding, bubble net
  • Toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises - echolocation 

Risks to whales
What can we do to protect whales and our ocean? 

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin

The activities described below will afford pupils the opportunity to enhance their understanding of concepts presented during the PowerPoint presentation by participating in hands-on experiences and guided discussions in small groups

Big, Bigger, Biggest (relative lengths of various whales)
Using a tape measure marked at intervals respresenting the lengths of different whales, pupils will match whale images with the appropriate length.

Which is Which (Whale Models)
Pupils will discuss differences in appearance, feeding habits, coloration and size; will classify whales as baleen or toothed and will locate different body parts.

Dinner Time (feeding habits of baleen and toothed whales)
Working with a variety of objects such as combs and clothespins, pupils will understand the feeding habits of baleen and toothed whales. They will also identify baleen and toothed whales and compare the sizes of each group.

Keeping Warm
The sea is a chilly place to live. Whales are well prepared for this with a thick layer of fat called "blubber". Pupils will take turns putting a "blubber glove" on one hand while leaving the other hand unprotected. Both hands are then submerged in bowl of ice water. Each student will be asked to describe his or her experience.

Who Goes There? (sound and echolocation - finding food in the dark)
The sea is not only cold; it can also be very dark depending on depth below the surface. Whales need a way to identify sources of food that they are unable to see. Pupils will understand how this is accomplished in this hands-on activity, using a slinky and tuning forks.