Live Like a Whale with Our Marine Science Activities

By Shelley Brown

Roaming throughout all the world’s oceans, whales are the largest animals on Earth. As marine mammals, whales are warm-blooded and must regularly surface to breathe air. These majestic creatures are also very social and use a variety of noises to communicate with each other. Through our Kids Environmental Lesson Plans, also known as KELP, kids can discover the answers to how whales have adapted to living in the ocean. These five activities require minimal preparation and simple materials that you can find at home, in a grocery store or craft store. 

1. How do whales survive in ice-cold ocean waters? 

Like humans, whales are warm-blooded mammals. To survive in ice-cold ocean waters, whales have a thick layer of fat, called blubber just beneath the surface of their skin. The blubber acts as a thermal insulator and is the primary fat storage for these mammals. In this activity, kids will create a “blubber glove” using vegetable shortening to mimic the importance of blubber to whales living in frigid waters.  

2. How do whales hold their breath for such long periods of time? 

One of the ways marine mammals, including whales, can hold their breath so long and dive to deep depths is through the mammalian dive reflex. By submerging your face in ice cold water, you can experience the natural dive reflex yourself. The cold water causes your heart rate to lower, thereby reducing the amount of oxygen your body requires, allowing you to hold your breath even longer. 

3. What do whales see? 

Since our eyes are on the front of our head, we have binocular vision, in which both eyes see one view. However, whales have eyes on the sides of their head, and each eye sees a separate view, which is called monocular vision. With a paper towel tube, two small mirrors and tape, kids can build monoculars to view surroundings from the perspective of a whale.  

4. What do baleen whales eat? 

Baleen whales are the largest animals on Earth, yet they eat some of the smallest animals in the ocean. In this fun, modified version of Jenga, kids will learn about a baleen whale’s food chain and the potential impact humans have on that food chain. Even though the ocean seems so vast, small changes in the marine food web can have dramatic consequences.  

5. How do baleen whales eat? 

Baleen whales strain food from the water through their baleen, which are special bristle-like structures in their mouths. Using a comb, this activity demonstrates how certain baleen whales, like the North Atlantic right whale, use skim feeding to capture their prey. 

Our KELP program consists of more than fifty activities which address a variety of ocean topics that are suited for ages 6 to 16. Download all of the KELP marine science activities here

You can also help students become experts on their favorite sea creature. From sea turtles and sharks to octopus and corals, kids can dive deep into life under our oceans with Oceana’s Marine Life Encyclopedia and learn fun facts about hundreds of marine animals and ecosystems.