Exploring Sea Otters
Students get to know the characteristics and behaviors of sea otters and other mammals.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
About this book
Students will be able to identify animals, and more specifically mammals, and their characteristics.
- Identify animals, and more specifically mammals.
- Identify what sounds the animals make
- Spell different animals names
- Research animals and put that information to use.
- Use songs, books, pictures, and the computer/internet to accomplish most of these objectives.
- Sea Otter Rescue by Roland Smith
- Lootas Little Wave Eater: An Orphaned Sea Otter's Story by Clare Hodgson Meeker
- Hula hoops
- Brown butcher paper, about 20 feet long
- Green bulletin board paper
- Plastic bags
- Sand or salt (to use in plastic bags, as weights)
- Styrofoam blocks
- Gray spraypaint
Objective: Students will be able to identify a marine mammal and compare and contrast it to all mammals.
Introduction: Does anyone know what a marine mammal is?
Read: Sea Otter Rescue by Roland Smith, the sections relevant to marine mammal description and encyclopedia definition.
Step 1: Review the characteristics of mammals: they have hair or fur; they have two or four legs; their babies are born live (discuss difference between "egg laying" and "live bearing.") Review the characteristics of marine mammals (% of life lived in water, warming adaptations, water adaptations).
Step 2: Students will be able to identify which animal is a marine mammal when shown two animal pictures. "Why is or is it not a marine mammal?"
Read a characteristic or fact from a marine mammal (otter, whale). Haves students take turns identifying which marine mammal the fact describes.
Step 3: When a student guesses correctly, ask him or her to add another fact about that animal.
Conclusion: All students should be able to explain why an animal is a marine mammal.
Objective: Students will be able to understand the predators sea otters face in the wild.
Introduction: Read Lootas Little Wave Eater: An Orphaned Sea Otter's Story by Clare Hodgson Meeker.
Step 1: Play a game called Whale and Otter. Go outside to the playground area. Mark out a rectangular playing area. On one end, place paper sea urchins (sea otter food) that you or your students have made. In the center area, place about four hula hoops, which represent the kelp forest.
Step 2: Break your students into groups: orca whales and sea otters. Try to have one whale per four otters. Have the orca whales start at one end, swimming around the "ocean" (field). The object is for the sea otters to cross the ocean three times and get a sea urchin each time without being "eaten" (tagged) by an orca whale. Otters can "hide" in the kept forests and are safe from the whale, but can only stay there for one minute.
Step 3: Whoever is a mother sea otter must get five sea urchins. Have one handicapped sea otter who has survived an attack by a killer whale. He has to hop on one foot. Play several rounds varying the ratio of whales to otters.
Conclusion: Discuss and graph the results of each round.
Objective: Students will be able to make a model of a kelp forest.
Introduction: Sea otters live in kelp forests. Have the students make a model of a kelp forest.
Step 1: Using a piece of brown paper about 20 feet long, cut a "kelp stripe" about four inches wide.
Step 2: Next, have students make the kelp leaves out of green bulletin board paper. The length of the leaves should be about one foot. Make sure they make a "bladder" at the base of each leaf. Staple the leaves along the sides of the stripe. Hang the stripe from the ceiling of the classroom. To make a canopy, staple some of the stripe across the ceiling.
Step 3: Make a kelp holdfast out of baggies filled with salt or sand. Make rocks out of styrofoam blocks, spray painted gray. Place the holdfasts on top of the rocks.
Step 4: Students can make large fish and sea mammals to suspend from the ceiling. They can make starfish and sea urchins out of clay and put them on the ground.
Conclusion: Students will love reading in their kelp forest now that they can describe a Californian sea otter habitat.
Supporting All Learners
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
Reading Language Arts
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information.
- Students conduct research by gathering, evaluating, and synthesizing data from a variety of sources, and then communicate their discoveries to different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (i.e. libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and communicate knowledge.
- Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems.
National Research Council of the National Academy of Science
Science as Inquiry:
- Understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge
- Understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry
- Understanding of the scientific enterprise
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
- The characteristics of organisms
- Life cycles of organisms
- Organisms and environments
- Structure and function in living systems
- Regulation and behavior
- Populations and ecosystems
- Diversity and adaptations of organisms
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives:
- Characteristics and changes in populations
- Changes in environments
- Science and technology in local challenges
- Populations, resources, and environments
- Natural hazards
- Risks and benefits
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- Global Connections (Students study global connections and interdependence)
- Science, Technology, and Society (The study of relationships among science, technology, and society)
- People, Places, and Environment (The study of people, places, and environments)
- Ideals, Principles, and Practices (The study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic)
Technology Foundation Standards for Students:
- Use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- Use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- Use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- Use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- Use technology tools to process data and report results
Use the writing rubric as a way to assess your students' writing skills. This rubric can also serve as a model for a modified version that might include your state's writing standards.