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Teacher's Guide
Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins
Grade Levels 1–8

National Standards Correlations
Lesson Planning Suggestions
Resources & Web Links

Reproducible Skill Sheet: Map Dolphin Sightings

Project Snapshot
Scholastic's "Wild Animal Watch" series takes your students underwater to meet the inquisitive stars of the cetacean group — dolphins! You're invited to join us as we follow the work of marine biologists who study these engaging animals — in the wild and in captivity.

Learning Objectives
In the course of participation in this online project, students will:

  • learn about dolphins, their behavior, and their habitats.
  • understand what has led to the endangerment of dolphins and how they can help change the course to prevent extinction.
  • improve content-area reading skills, including comprehension and vocabulary.
  • analyze and practice persuasive writing to express a point of view.
  • extend their knowledge of how scientists conduct research.

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Project Components
All About Dolphins (Grades 1–8)
Research biologist Dan Odell answers a variety of questions in this area of the project including, among others: What are dolphins? What's the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise? What are flippers and flukes? What do dolphins eat? In addition to its benefits to older students, this area of the project includes information that could be introduced to lower elementary students learning facts about marine mammals.

Dolphin Watch (Grades 3–8)
Dolphin Watch is the area of the project that involves the research conducted in the field. You will learn about Dan Odell's project to study bottlenose dolphins that live in the wild. His reports include information about conducting field research, dolphin sightings, the travels of dolphins, and methods used by researchers. A mapping activity used in real dolphin-sighting data is also included. This area of the project is extensive and is divided into chapters to help you manage using the information in the classroom setting. Students will engage in content reading, research, and learn about data collection. This area of the project can involve students for six weeks of detailed study and is ideal for students who are interested in an extensive study of dolphin research.

In the Tank (Grades 3–8)
In this area of the project, senior research biologist Ann Bowles explains a study that she is involved with regarding how marine mammals respond to human-made objects and sounds that may cause problems for marine life. Learn about entanglements, pingers, and what is being done to and for these mammals through the studies and experiments that are featured. In addition to the vast knowledge gained in this area of the project, this portion lends itself towards ideals associated with ecology and the preservation of life-forms including our responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of marine life in the wild.

Cetacean Relations Game (Grades 3–8)
The Cetacean Relations Game is based on the information that is provided throughout the project. Students will enjoy answering questions about dolphins in this game created for participants in the Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins project.

Map Activity (Grades 3–8)
Dolphin sightings are recorded by their location based on latitude and longitude. The lines of latitude and longitude form a grid, which makes it easy to locate any place on earth. Students can learn how to plot locations on a grid map showing longitude and latitude, just like the scientists studying the dolphins. Use our map of a section of the east coast of central Florida and the field team's data to plot the locations of dolphin sightings.

Essay Writing (Grades 3–8)
This project lends itself to providing an opportunity for students to express their opinions about the topic. With this in mind, students were challenged to write the most persuasive and well-organized argument for or against the right of humans to keep marine mammals captive. Winning essays are posted at this site. Encourage your class to express their opinions similarly, or perhaps your class can come up with another equally compelling topic to write about regarding dolphins.

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National Standards Correlations
Scholastic's "Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins" helps students meet the following national standards established by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science (NRC/NAS).

  • Students should develop the ability to communicate, critique, and analyze their work and the work of other students. This communication might be spoken or drawn as well as written.

"Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins" also helps students meet the following standards established by the National Council of Science Teachers (NCST).

Regulation and Behavior
All organisms must be able to obtain and use resources, grow, reproduce, and maintain stable internal conditions living in a constantly changing external environment.

  • Behavior is one kind of response an organism can make to an internal or environmental stimulus. A behavioral response requires coordination and communication at many levels, including cells, organ systems, and whole organisms. Behavioral response is a set of actions determined in part by heredity and in part from experience.
  • An organism's behavior evolves through adaptation to its environment. A species moves, obtains food, reproduces, and responds to danger based on the species' evolutionary history.

Populations and Ecosystems

  • A population consists of all individuals of a species that occur together at a given place and time. All populations living together and the physical factors with which they interact compose an ecosystem.
  • Populations of organisms can be categorized by the function they serve in an ecosystem. Plants and some micro-organisms are producers they make their own food. All animals, including humans, are consumers, which obtain food by eating other organisms. Food webs identify the relationships among producers, consumers, and decomposers in an ecosystem.
  • The number of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors.

Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms

  • Extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient to allow its survival. Fossils indicate that many organisms that lived long ago are extinct. Extinction of species is common; most of the species that have lived on the earth no longer exist.

Standards met for English/Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) include:

  • Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.
  • Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

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Lesson Planning Suggestions
"Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins" has an abundance of information and the flexibility to design its use to meet your classroom's needs. While the topic is stimulating for large group interaction through discussion, it is also ideal for encouraging discovery on the part of the students. Below are some suggested ways you might use the program topic in your school or classroom.

Week One: Discovery
All About Dolphins is an ideal area to begin the study of dolphins with your class. With your class, develop a list of questions about dolphins. Divide them into discovery groups and assign each group to answer a portion of the questions. After locating their answers, students can teach their peers about dolphins based on the research they have done cooperatively. The first week of study could involve this exploration. As an extension, allow students to draw or paint pictures of what they have learned. Creating a large underwater mural is always a welcomed addition to elementary walls!

Week Two: Learning About Research
Go through Dolphin Watch with your students, learning about research skills and how marine biologists study dolphins. Assign one particular aspect of marine mammal life or dolphin life to pairs of students in your class. Let students have time to think about the topic for another week before they independently begin researching their topics. They will acquire more knowledge about dolphins while thinking about their topics and how the information will apply

Week Three: Research Skills
Spend this week discussing research skills, strategies, and establishing criteria for research. Give your students time to work independently through the project area.

Week Four: Extinction and Responsibility
Using In the Tank, take students through the concepts involved with extinction and responsibility. As an extension to this topic, ask your students to list as many extinct animals as they can.

Week Five: Research Paper
Students can use this week to write research papers on the assigned topic. The complexity of the paper will depend on the age of your students.

Helpful Links to Enhance This Learning Adventure:
Marine vocabulary words and scientific terms are used and explained throughout the project. They are hyperlinked to a central glossary page. After following a glossary link, students will have to use the "Back" button on their browser to return to the page they were reading. We suggest that you print the glossary page as a reference tool for younger students who may have trouble following back-and-forth navigation.

Web Links
This area of "Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins" includes teacher-approved Web sites where your students can safely extend knowledge on this topic using the Internet!

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Media Center (All grades — art, reading, vocabulary, writing)
Talk with your school librarian or media center director about recognizing the featured topic through the library setting, providing reading materials and special resources in a specific area. If younger children are involved, perhaps the librarian can read selections on the topic or an older student can be given this responsibility. As an extension, students can write reports about their readings, present oral or written reports, and illustrate favorite passages to be displayed.

Bulletin Board Display (All grades — art, vocabulary, writing)
Provide a classroom bulletin board or area in your school where students can be given the responsibility of developing a special display. Assign a group of students the task of designing the bulletin board; rotate the groups as you rotate areas of study in the field. Invite other subject-area teachers such as the art teacher to participate in expanding this learning area.

Science Journals (Grades 3–8 — technology, research skills, vocabulary, writing)
Using computer software such as ClarisWorks, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Works, or The Writing Center by The Learning Company, have students create and maintain electronic science journals. Allow students to illustrate their work by using the drawing and painting features of the software. This will be an excellent place for keeping notes, creating glossaries of unfamiliar words, and storing pertinent questions.

Science Slide Show (Grades 3–8 — art, technology, research skills, writing)
Have students create a slide show about dolphins using multimedia software such as HyperStudio or PowerPoint. As a culminating activity, invite parents to an electronic science fair where students can present their slide shows. Another method of presentation is to allow parents to go to a computer to view the presentations independently.

Newsworthy Scientists! (Grades 3–8 — technology, research skills, vocabulary, writing)
Have each student write an article about dolphins. Compile the articles into a science newsletter. If your class already publishes a monthly newsletter, feature a science topic in each issue, rotating the responsibility of writing the articles throughout the class. ClarisWorks, Microsoft Works, and The Writing Center all include newsletter templates.

Bibliography (Grades 3–8 — research skills)
Include a lesson in creating a bibliography that includes published interviews online. The format for this kind of documentation can be located at the Classroom Connect Resource Station.

Interviews (Grades 3–8 — speaking and listening, research skills)
In addition to posting his field reports, Dan answered students' questions about dolphins in his interview. Read the interview transcript and discuss interviewing techniques with your students. Invite a scientist from a local zoo or ecology organization to your class to share more information about animal research or endangered animals in your area. Have students do preliminary research before the classroom visit and prepare interview questions to ask.

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There are a variety of assessment opportunities built into this project. They include:

Cetacean Relations Quiz
Students test their knowledge by playing our interactive game. It's part scavenger hunt, part research assignment, because all answers can be found online in our project.

Mapping Activity
Try a math-and-mapping activity that uses real field-study data about dolphin movements and behavior.

Essay Writing
Have your students write a persuasive essay taking a position on whether dolphins should be kept in captivity.

Throughout the project, teachers can observe and evaluate:

  • social skills and process through the collaborative experiences.
  • oral discussion and comprehension skills demonstrated.

A rubric for assessment of student participation in this project might include the following general criteria:

  Level One Level Two Level Three Score
Essay Writing: Writing/Spelling/Grammar Misspelling; grammatical errors; not clearly written Fewer technical mistakes; expressed a point of view but offered no supporting facts Error-free; well-organized arguments with supporting facts  
Content Understanding Did not participate in class; unable to complete Cetacean Relations Quiz or essay assignment Learned specific information as demonstrated in the Cetacean Relations Quiz; was unable to relate information to new ideas or concepts Participated knowledgeably in class discussions; successfully answered all questions in Cetacean Relations Quiz  
Mapping Activity Random or incorrect placement of dolphin sightings Most dolphin sightings close to correct latitude and longitude All dolphin sightings correctly located on the map  

For more information on how to create your own assessment rubrics:

Rubric Template

The Rubricator by Strategic Learning Technologies

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Online Resources
Refer to these teacher-tested Web links for more information about dolphins!

Books About Dolphins
Island of the Blue Dolphins
By Scott O'Dell (Ages 9–12)
The author of this book won the Newbery Medal for Island of the Blue Dolphins in 1961. The book also received the Children's Literature Association's 1976 award as one of the ten best American children's books in the past 200 years. The book is based on a true story about a twelve-year-old Native American girl and her remarkable life with her brother as they tried to survive abandonment on an island.

The Blue Dolphin
By Robert Barnes and Nancy Carleton
This heartwarming book is about life in the ocean through the eyes of a dolphin. The dolphin, Boji, is trying to discover the purpose of his life.

Print Resources
The following Scholastic supplemental materials can be used in conjunction with this topic.

Be a Scientist series (Grades 3–6)
These books present students with the idea of a career in science. The books cover role models, including men and women from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Students learn about an exciting blend of scientists, learning what they do each day in their specialized fields. Skills are emphasized and activities are included.

Professional Resource: Quick and Easy Learning Centers: Science by Lynne Kepler (Grades 1–3) This book focuses on the use of everyday materials to promote independent, hands-on learning. Experiments, reproducibles, and information on classroom management are included in this helpful book.

More complete descriptions of these resources and more can be found in Scholastic's Supplemental Materials Catalog, or call 1-800-724-6527.

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Meet Dan Odell | About Dolphins | Dolphin Watch | Map | Game 
Teacher's Guide | Essays | Web Links