Lesson 3

by Nancy Stevick

LESSON 3: Using the On-Line Humpback Catalog

Activity 3a: What Can We Learn about Individual Whales from the On-line Catalog?
Activity 3b: Using Math to Learn More about Each Humpback
Activity 3c: Why do humpbacks travel to the Gulf of Maine in the summer?
Activity 3d: Writing a Narrative about their Whale
Objectives for Lesson 3: These activities can satisfy the following objectives as stated in the Maine Learning Results.

Activity 3a: What Can We Learn about Individual Whales from the On-line Catalog?

Now it is time for students to begin using the data in the On-line Catalog to answer questions.


On-line computers with printers
Paper and pencils
Large sheets of paper and markers

Have students break up into pairs or small groups (depending on how many computer terminals and time you have). Have each group obtain sighting information from the On-line Catalog for one humpback. The Gulf of Maine humpbacks have catalog numbers running from 0001-999 and 8000-8999. Explain that the whales received their catalog numbers in ascending order, so the whales with the smallest catalog number have the longest sighting histories. The whales with the largest numbers are the youngest whales and have the shortest sighting histories. Lists of whales by various category are included in this curriculum packet. These include whales which have had calves, whales seen in both the Gulf of Maine and Caribbean and whales which are consistently sighted on specific feeding areas in the Gulf of Maine (Stellwagen Bank, Mount Desert Rock and Brier Island). You can assign specific whales if you wish to ensure a variety so that there are some interesting comparisons and contrasts. Have students print out the fluke photograph and sighting data of the whale they chose.

Discuss what questions students might ask that this data could answer. Put the questions up on a large sheet of paper for each group to refer to as they work. Possible questions might be:

What months has the whale been sighted?
Where does the whale spend the summer?
Where does it spend the winter?
Has it been seen every year since its first sighting?
What is the minimum age of the whale?
Are there any whales that students could accurately age? (Yes, known calves.)
Has the whale had calves?
Do calves spend the summer in the same place as their mothers?
Do the flukes of calves resemble the flukes of the mother?
Does the animal have any scars? How might have they been acquired?
Does the fluke look easy or difficult to match? (Plain, unmarked flukes are generally harder to match than well marked flukes.)

Armed with these questions, students are ready to analyze their data to learn more about their individual humpbacks.

Activity 3b: Using Math to Learn More about Each Humpback


Computer print out of sighting histories of each whale
Paper and pencils
Nautical charts of the North Atlantic (Laminated or covered with contact paper)
Large sheets of tracing paper
Water soluble markers
Graph paper and colored pencils
Rulers, dividers

Now it is time for students to glean as much information from that data as they can. Have each group plot the sightings of their whale on the chart of the North Atlantic. If you do not have funds to purchase multiple copies of navigation charts of the North Atlantic or you want your students to practice basic map making skills, you can have each group trace their own chart. They will need to include the outline of the coast, latitude and longitude lines, and important areas such as Stellwagen Bank, Jeffreys Ledge and any other locations where their whale was sighted. Of course, accuracy in measurement is important. Have them use different colors to plot each year's sightings. Once each group is done with their math exercises, these charts can be hung around the room for everyone to study.

Students can now use their plots to determine such things as the area of each whale's preferred feeding range and the minimum distance this whale has traveled from the waters off the Dominican Republic to get to its feeding ground each year. If the whale is of known age, students can calculate the minimum distance this whale has traveled during its annual migrations. You can have students do many other math activities with these plots. They can calculate the distance from land to each of the plots. If you have a bathymetric chart, students can look up the depth of the water where the whales have been seen. (This will be important when you study the productivity of these areas.) If a whale has more than one sighting in a single year, students can calculate the distance the whale traveled between those two plots. By dividing this distance by the number of days between the sightings, they can calculate the distance traveled by day. This is especially interesting for the distances between the Caribbean and feeding grounds, but can be done with plots on the feeding grounds. Use your imagination to determine other mathematical exercises.

Graphing the dates of the sightings can also help students to understand their data. Have them make two graphs. You and your students can determine what types of graph will be most useful for interpreting this data. On one graph, have students plot the sightings by year in the feeding grounds and breeding grounds. Which graph has the most points? Why? On the other graph, have them plot sightings by month, using a different color for each year. Do they see any trends? In which months were the whales sighted most often? Why? (Generally, the whales are sighted more in the summer months because there are more boats out looking for them then. The effort is greater. The weather and navigational hazards such as coral reefs make whale research in the Caribbean more difficult.)

Activity 3c: Why do humpbacks travel to the Gulf of Maine in the summer?


On-line computers with printers
Library resources such as books, journals, newspaper articles, tourism information
Paper and writing utensils

From their collection of data from the On-line Catalog, students will realize that these humpbacks all spend the summer in various parts of the Gulf of Maine. They are drawn to this area because of the rich food sources. This information provides the perfect link for a study of food chains and productivity in the ocean.

The WhaleNet web site has resources to help you with a study of productivity. Have students read A Day on a Whale Watch at http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/whalewatchsmyth.html. This is an interactive book with questions students can answer by clicking on the correct image. It has some information about primary productivity and how this is important to the whales that feed in the Gulf of Maine. This book is geared to a lower level, but could be useful as an introduction for middle school students. Have students find other information about productivity on the Internet and other sources. Use the same groups or create different groupings and have each group research a different topic relating to productivity in the North Atlantic, or more specifically, the Gulf of Maine. Research topics could include:

Currents in the Gulf of Maine
Primary Productivity/plankton
What do humpbacks eat? What do their prey eat?
Why are Stellwagen Bank, Jeffreys Ledge and the waters off Brier Island so popular with humpbacks and fishermen?
Comparison of productivity in the Gulf of Maine and Caribbean. How does this affect the local economies?
Natural history of the humpback whale

The WhaleNet web site has useful links to other research and educational resource sites which can provide additional data. Have students find sites with information on plankton productivity and weather to compare to their whale sightings. Are there any correlations? Have students briefly write up their findings and/or present them to the class.

Activity 3d: Writing a Narrative about their Whale


word processor or paper and pencil
research resources collected to date
tools needed for writing such as dictionary, spelling dictionary, etc.
Natural history books about animals
General natural history journals such as Natural History, National Geographic, National Wildlife, etc.

As well as being able to interpret data, scientists need good communication skills. They not only need to communicate their findings to other scientists, they need to be able to share their findings with the general public. They will only obtain funding for future research if they can convince funding agencies (both public and private) that their work is important. These are important skills for students to develop early.

Have each group or individual student use the information they have collected on their whale and the environmental information they have learned to write a brief narrative about their whale. These can be as imaginative as they wish, but they must include real data in their story. A good example of this type of narrative is Crystal, The Story of a Real Baby Whale by Karen Smyth, published by Downeast Books, Camden Maine. ISBN 0-89272-327-0. Ask students to bring in their favorite animal stories as references, too. Students can illustrate their stories if they wish. Use the writing process and have students peer review each others stories. They can read their stories aloud and/or publish them to create a lending library in the classroom.

Objectives for Lesson 3: These activities can satisfy the following objectives as stated in the Maine Learning Results.

English Language Arts

A(1) Formulate questions to be answered while reading.
A(2) Reflect on what has been discovered and learned while reading, and formulate additional questions.
A(4) Use specific strategies (e.g. rereading, consultation) to clear up confusing parts of a text.
A(6) Identify accurately both the author's purpose and the author's point of view.
A(7) Summarize whole texts by selecting and summarizing important and representative passages.
A(8) Read for a wide variety of purposes (e.g., to gain knowledge, to aid in making decisions, to receive instructions, to follow an argument, to enjoy).
A(9) Explain orally and defend opinions formed while reading and viewing.
A(10) Adjust viewing and listening strategies in order to comprehend materials viewed and heard.
A(11) Generate and evaluate the notes they have taken from course-related reading, listening, and viewing.
B(2) Identify specific interests and questions and pursue them by identifying pertinent literature and media.
B(7) Recognize complex elements of plot (e.g., setting, major events, problems, conflicts, resolutions). B(9) Apply effective strategies to the reading and use of moderately long nonfiction texts (e.g., reference sources, articles, editorials, histories, biographies, autobiographies, diaries, letters, and commentaries) which have an appropriate complexity of content and sophistication of style.
C(1) Form conclusions regarding formal, informal, and other varieties of language use, based upon experience.
C(3) Consult pertinent information sources on language use (e.g., dictionary, a thesaurus, a handbook on style).
C(4) Use knowledge of the fundamental parts of speech when writing and speaking.
D(1) Seek appropriate assistance when attempting to comprehend challenging text.
D(2) Identify useful information organizing strategies.
D(3) Identify both the author's purpose and the author's point of view when reading expository information.
D(4) Identify different ways in which information texts are organized.
D(5) Produce and support generalizations acquired from informational text.
D(6) Describe new knowledge presented in informational texts and how it can be used.
D(7) Identify common technical terms used in informational texts.
D(8) Use the various parts of a text (index, table of contents, glossary) to locate specific information.
E(1) Identify specific personal strategies, strengths, and weaknesses in writing, and use direct feedback from peers and teachers to revise and polish the content of their finished pieces.
E(2) Use planning, drafting, and revising to produce, on demand, a well-developed, organized piece that demonstrates effective language use, voice, and command of mechanics.
E(3) Ask questions and apply personal interpretations in class discussion following speeches and oral presentations.
F(1) Edit written work for standard English spelling and usage, evidenced by pieces that show and contain:
no significant errors in the use of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives.
few significant errors in the use of adjective forms (e.g., comparative, superlative), adverbial forms, prepositions, and prepositional phrases.
attention to the proper use of conjunctions
no significant errors in the spelling of common, frequently used words, and attention to the correct spelling of commonly misspelled words and less common words.
no significant errors in the common conventions of capitalization (e.g., proper nouns, names, titles) and attention to the less common capitalization conventions (e.g., capitalizing the names of nationalities).
no significant errors in the use of ending punctuation marks, few significant errors in the common uses of commas, and attention to the proper use of the colon, semicolon, hyphen, dash, apostrophe, and quotation marks.
attention to the correct use of commonly confused terms (e.g., affect and effect).
attention to the proper use of italics, marginal notes, and footnotes.

F(2) Demonstrate command of the conventions necessary to make an informal speech or presentation, effectively engaging peers and fielding responses.
G(1) Write stories with an identifiable beginning, middle, and ending.
G(3) Write pieces and deliver oral presentations that use structures appropriate to audience and purpose.
G(4) Write essays and deliver oral presentations which identify a clear topic and reliably support that topic.
G(6) Write and deliver oral presentations that achieve distinct purposes (e.g., to summarize, to narrate, to inform, to explain).
G(7) Write and make remarks that use descriptive language to clarify, enhance, and develop ideas.
G(8) Write pieces and deliver oral presentations that include a variety of sentence structures appropriate to the purpose.
G(9) Write pieces that use a variety of transitional devices (i.e. phrases, sentences, paragraphs).
G(10) Deliver oral presentations that use a variety of strategies of address (e.g., eye contact, hand gestures, voice modulation, changes of rhythm).
H(1) Collect and synthesize data for research topics from interviews and field work, using notetaking and other appropriate strategies.
H(2) Separate information collected for research topics into major components based on relevant criteria.
H(3) Create bibliographies.
H(4) Use available catalogs to locate materials for research reports.
H(5) Use indexes to periodical literature to locate information for research.
H(6) Use magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, journals, and other print sources to gather information for research topics.
H(7) Use search engines and other Internet resources to collect information for research topics.
H(8) Make limited but effective use of primary sources when researching topics.
H(9) Explain the importance of primary sources in evaluating the validity and reliability of collected information.
H(10) Demonstrate initial understanding of proper attribution (e.g., footnotes).


A(2) Demonstrate understanding of the relationships among the basic arithmetic operations on different types of numbers.
A(4) Represent numerical relationships in graphs, tables and charts.
B(2) Create, solve, and justify the solution for multi-step, real-life problems including those with ratio and proportion.
C(1) Organize and analyze data using mean, median, mode, and range.
C(2) Assemble data and use matrices to formulate and solve problems.
C(3) Construct inferences and convincing arguments based on data.
E(3) Use a coordinate system to define and locate position.
F(1) Demonstrate the structure and use of systems of measurement.
F(2) Develop and use concepts that can be measured directly or indirectly (e.g., the concept of rate).
F(3) Demonstrate an understanding of length, area, volume, and the corresponding units, square units, and cubic units of measure.
G(1) Describe and represent relationships with tables, graphs, and equations.
G(2) Analyze relationships to explain how a change in one quantity can result in a change in another.
G(3) Use patterns and multiple representations to solve problems.
H(3) Analyze tables and graphs to identify properties and relationships in a practical context.
I(2) Identify patterns in the world and express these patterns with rules.
J(1) Support reasoning by using models, known facts, properties, and relationships.
J(2) Demonstrate that multiple paths to a conclusion may exist.
K(2) Use statistics, tables and graphs to communicate ideas and information in convincing presentations and analyze presentations of others for bias or deceptive presentation.

Science & Technology

A(3) Describe some structural and behavioral adaptations that allow organisms to survive in a changing environment.
B(4) Generate examples of the variety of ways that organisms interact (e.g., competition, predator/prey, parasitism/mutualism).
J(1) Make accurate observations using appropriate tools and units of measure.
J(2) Design and conduct scientific investigations which include controlled experiments and systematic observations. Collect and analyze data, draw conclusions fairly.
J(3) Verify and evaluate scientific investigations and use results in a purposeful way.
J(4) Compare and contrast processes of scientific inquiry and technological method.
J(5) Explain how personal bias can affect observations.
K(1) Examine the ways people form generalizations.
K(2) Identify exceptions to proposed generalizations.
K(3) Identify basic informal fallacies in arguments.
K(4) Analyze means of slanting information.
K(6) Support reasoning by using a variety of evidence.
K(7) Show that proving a hypothesis false is easier than proving it true, and explain why.
K(8) Construct logical arguments.
K(9) Apply analogous reasoning.
L(1) Discuss scientific and technological ideas and make conjectures and convincing arguments.
L(2) Defend problem-solving strategies and solutions.
L(3) Evaluate individual and group communication for clarity, and work to improve communication.
L(4) Make and use scale drawings, maps, and three-dimensional models to represent real objects, find locations, and describe relationships.
L(5) Access information at remote sites using telecommunications.
L(6) Identify and perform roles necessary to accomplish group tasks.
M(1) Research and evaluate the social and environmental impacts of scientific and technological developments.
M(3) Discuss the ethical issues surrounding a specific scientific or technological development.
M(6) Give examples of actions which may have expected or unexpected consequences that may be positive, negative, or both.

Social Studies (Geography)

A(1) Visualize the globe and construct maps of the world and its subregions to identify patterns of human settlement, major physical features, and political divisions.
A(2) Develop maps, globes, charts, models, and databases to analyze geographical patterns on the earth.
A(3) Understand United States social, political, and economic divisions and the more significant social and political divisions in world geography.
B(1) Analyze how technology shapes the physical and human characteristics of places and regions, including Maine.
B(2) Explain patterns of migration throughout the world.
B(3) Explain how cultures differ in their use of similar environments and resources.

Social Studies (Economics)

B(4) Explain the impact that major events and technological advancements have had on the Maine economy and predict future economic trends and career opportunities.
B(5) Describe the roles and contributions of the principal contributors to the economy (e.g., laborers, investors, entrepreneurs, managers).

Visual and Performing Arts

A(4) Use a variety of resources, materials, and techniques to design and execute art works.
C(6) Critique their own work and the work of others based upon an aesthetic criterion.>

Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on the accuracy, completeness and neatness of their charts and their data points. Did they include all the data points and plot them correctly? Students will be evaluated on their interpretation of the data. Did they graph the sightings correctly and provide a reasonable interpretation of the data? Their investigations on environmental topics and their narratives will be evaluated on style, organization, content and grammar.

Go to Introduction

Go to Lesson 1

Go to Lesson2

Go to Humpback Whale Catalog


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