The educational and earth-friendly book, This Planet is Mine, was written by two teachers, Dianna Dee Damkoehler and Helen Gehrenbeck. Their intent was to explore the wonders of the planet through various environmentally-focused and literature-based curriculum activities. The book is a compilation of their classroom experiences. The following sample activities taken from This Planet is Mine may inspire you to take your own students on a journey.
Integrating the Idea
We know that as good earthkeepers the best thing we can do for whales is to become “whale-smart,” so we will be well-informed earthkeepers on their behalf.
We decided to do some research on the different characteristics of whales. Books like Whales by Gaff Gibbons gave us lots of information.
- Group reports: We broke into groups to read and research more about six different species of whales, like the blue, beluga, orca, and narwhal. We made web charts looking for information such as food, habitat, physical characteristics, enemies, and communication techniques of our particular whale. When we were all done we shared our information. Earthkeepers know how important it is to work together and share the load!
- A whale watcher's bulletin board: As earthkeepers we wanted to tell others about what we were learning. We kept adding reports and drawings and fact bubbles to our bulletin board in the hallway so that everyone could share our findings.
A Whale Tale Message
We had learned that the markings on the whales' flukes are like finger prints. They are different for each humpback. We decided to design our own individual whale tail including a message for the earth in our design!
Science and Math
We learned that a blue whale can be as large as 25 to 30 elephants, so we made an elephant pattern and cut out 30 elephants and then drew a whale around them, to help us imagine the size. We also knew that the blue whale can be 100 feet long. We went outside to try to make the outline of a whale. It's so large, we didn't even have enough people in our class to outline the bottom of the whale. We watched a great video, Sizing Up Animals, which gave us lots of tips about how to understand animal sizes.
Can-Counting Culmination/1,000 Cans!
Weeks ago, during our water unit, we began collecting and counting cans to recycle. The children knew we were going to do something special with the money we earned. Now we were excited to learn what that was! We were going to protect a whale! Not in our classroom of course, but one roaming free and safe in the seas. We chose one named Bat. This was special to us since we had learned so many wonderful things about bats earlier in the year, and now we were the care-takers of an “ocean-flying bat!” We celebrated when we were able to record the 1,000th can on our chart. We had met our goal. We sent off our hard-earned money and waited for the picture of Bat to arrive in the mail. We were glad we had helped the earth by recycling all those aluminum cans, too! We were learning about the power of good choices.
Habitat Dioramas and Dilemmas
- A guest shared a great whale story: Kahla, a fourth grade friend, came to read the story of Humphrey: The Lost Whale by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall. We were learning, through stories like this one, about the problems faced by the great whales. Kahla made “Save the Whale” bookmarks for each of us, and brought a shoebox habitat she had made. She agreed to come back another day and help us create our own “Ocean Home Dioramas.” We were really beginning to think about how important it is to keep the ocean waters clean and safe!
- Oil spill in a jar: Another guest earthkeeper shared the story of Ibis: A True Whale Story by John Himmelman. Ibis is caught in a fisherman's net and gets in real trouble! “Just imagine,” said our guest, “that Ibis might also be caught in an oil spill.” To help us, she took a glass jar of water and poured oil into it. We could see clearly as oil reached down into the water and then returned to float on the top. She then took a series of items and dipped them into the “oil slick.” We could see the awful damage! A white feather became brown and slimy and lifeless looking. As the guest raised a beautiful white sand dollar to place in the “slick” all the students cried out “No!” The guest poised her hand and said, “If you will try to always remember your Earthkeeper goals and to be curious about whales and the waters they swim, I will spare this lovely sand dollar!” All the children eagerly agreed. The oil slick was placed in our whale center and gave us much to think about.
Whales in Native American Cultures
- A whale video: We watched Gift of the Whales in which Dan Hunter, a Native American from Alaska comes to respect and love the whales as he listens to the ancient wisdom of his grandfather and the modern-day wisdom of a wild life biologist. He learns he too wants to be a friend to the whales.
- A whale folktale: We read Whale Brother by Barbara Steiner in which another young boy, Omu, discovers the wonder of these great creatures that are our brothers. Omu learns that good works take time and effort and love. Whales have much to teach us and are held in great respect by many Native American tribes.