Sea Otters
by Anne M. Vitale

Essential Question
What makes Sea Otters special?

Unit Questions
• Where do sea otters live?
• What is a marine mammal, and what animals do we classify as a marine mammals?
• What do sea otters eat?
• How do we obtain information using the computer to inform others on our sea otter?
• How can we write a creative story about our adopted sea otter?

Unit Summary
Student will be able to identify animals, and more specifically mammals. They will be able to identify what sounds the animals make, how to spell different animals names, and how to research them and put that information to use. They will use songs, books, pictures, and the computer/internet to accomplish most of these objectives.

Subject Area(s):
English Language Arts, Science, Math, Technology Applications

Student Objectives/Learning Outcomes
• The students will be able to identify whether an animal is a marine mammal, and give reasons why it is or is not.
• The students will be able to write, revise, and type a creative story about our adopted sea otter.
• The student will be able to use the Internet to obtain specified information on sea otter eating habits and social structure.
• The students will be able to use their obtained information to make a Newsletter about our adopted sea otter.
• The students will be able to participate in an online virtual field trip to see an otter at an aquarium via Otter Cam.
• The students will be able to, once again using their obtained information, construct a 6 slide PowerPoint presentation about our adopted sea otter.

Activity #1
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, section relevant to marine mammal description and encyclopedia definition


  1. Review the characteristics of mammals: they have hair or fur; they have 2 or 4 legs; their babies are born live. (Discuss difference between "egg laying" and "live bearing.") and marine mammals (% of life lived in water, warming adaptations, water adaptations.)
  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?"
  3. Teacher will read a characteristic from a marine mammal Fact (otter, whale). Students will take turns identifying which marine mammal the fact describes.
  4. 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.

Activity #2
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.

  1. This game is called Whale and Otter. Go outside to the playground area. Mark out a rectangular playing area. On one end place paper sea urchins the teacher or students have made. In the center area place about four hula hoops which represent the kelp forest.
  2. The students start at one end with the whales swimming around the ocean (field). The object is to cross the ocean three times and get a sea urchin each time without being "eaten" (tagged) by an orca whale. The otter can hide in the kept forest and is safe from the whale, but he can only stay there for 1 minute.
  3. If someone is a mother sea otter, they have to get 5 sea urchins. Have one handicapped sea otter who has survived an attack by a killer whale. He has to hop on one foot. Try to have one whale per 4 otters. Play several rounds varying the ratio of whales to otters.
  4. At the conclusion of the game, discuss and graph the results of each round.

Activity #3
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.

  1. Use about 20 feet of brown paper to cut out the kelp's stripe. The width of the stripe should be about four inches.
  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. You will have to actually staple some of the stripe across the ceiling to make the canopy.
  3. Make the 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.
  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 love to take a book and read in the kelp forest now that they can describe a Californian sea otter habitat.

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