4th Grade Cetacean/Right Whale Curriculum

This curriculum was designed in 2011-2012 by Drs. Maia McGuire and Ruth Francis-Floyd and was reviewed in 2013 by Cheryl Bonnes and NOAA's right whale southeast implementation team. Brenda Cannaliato contributed to lessons 8, 12 and 16. The intent is to have 4th grade teachers integrate these lessons into their regular curriculum. Lessons are designed to take approximately one class period each (exceptions are noted in the lesson descriptions). Lessons are listed in the suggested order; however each is a stand-alone lesson that could be taught independently of the other lessons. Florida Sunshine State Standards and Common Core Standards are provided for each of the lessons (as appropriate). NGSS correlations are forthcoming. Comments on the curriculum should be sent to Maia McGuire (mpmcg@ufl.edu).

For those who wish to use these lessons with grades other than 4th, please download the version of the lesson that says "without 4th grade in header." A simplified version of Lesson 3 is available (suitable for grades 1-2).

Thanks to the Center for Coastal Studies (visit their Facebook page) for permission to scan and share the book Whales: Activities based on research from the Center for Coastal Studies, activities from which are included in lessons 2, 6 and 13.

If you have used any of these lessons, we'd love to get your feedback. Please take a few minutes to fill out a short online evaluation. Thanks!

Objectives: To learn about the biology and ecology of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), especially the North Atlantic Right Whale; to learn ways that humans impact and can protect cetaceans.

DOWNLOAD ALL LESSONS. You will also need to download PowerPoint presentations and other supplemental materials for lessons 2, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 16--see links below)


Lesson 1: Starting to learn about whales

Lesson 2:  What makes a whale a whale?

Lesson 3: Researching individual whale and dolphin species


Lesson 4: How big are cetaceans?

Lesson 5: Scientific names--understanding where those funny words come from

Lesson 6: Whale behaviors

  • Students will learn about behaviors that many whales can be seen doing. They will make whale puppets and use them to model different whale behaviors.

Note: Embedded videos in the presentation should run in Windows 7 and PowerPoint 2010 or later. If using earlier versions of Windows or PowerPoint, use the links on the slides to access videos (you will need to be connected to the internet).

Lesson 7: How do whales eat?

  • Students will learn about the dfifferences between how baleen and toothed whales feed. Students will learn how sound waves are used for echolocation.

Note: Embedded video and audio clips should run in Windows 7 and PowerPoint 2010 or later (there are a few videos that must be accessed using a weblink because of copyright restrictions--the script in the lesson will help you identify these videos and the links are provided in the slides.) If using earlier versions of Windows or PowerPoint, use the links on all slides to access videos. You will need to download the audio clips into the same folder as the PowerPoint presentation in order to be able to play the sounds in slide # 15.

Lesson 8: Food chains

Lesson 9: How do whales stay warm?

Lesson 10: Summarizing what we know about cetaceans.

Lesson 11: Focusing on North Atlantic right whales

Lesson 12: Identifying individual North Atlantic right whales

Lesson 13: North Atlantic right whale migration

Lesson 14: Why have right whales been hunted?

Lesson 15: How do right whales communicate?

Lesson 16: North Atlantic right whales and boat strikes

Lesson 17: How can we protect North Atlantic right whales?

Lesson 18: Technology and North Atlantic right whales.

Lesson 19: Bringing it all together

Dr. Maia McGuire is the Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent for St Johns and Flagler Counties. Dr. Ruth Francis-Floyd is an IFAS Extension Veterinarian and at the University of Florida's Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences Program. Cheryl Bonnes is a marine mammal outreach specialist with NOAA Fisheries.



Other right whale education resources