Island Explorers Curriculum Home


Unit 2

Lesson Plan 1

Lesson Plan 2

Lesson Plan 3

Lesson Plan 4

Lesson Plan 5

Lesson Plan 6

Lesson Plan 7

Concepts/Objectives | Vocabulary/Background | Activity | Extension


Lesson Plan 1







  1. What does the word extinct mean?
    That a plant/animal is no longer alive and that it cannot reproduce.
  2. Can you name some animals that have become extinct?
  3. Was there anything that these animals could have done to stay alive?
    No because their deaths were due to environmental changes.Let's play an activity that will demonstrate how favorable characteristics/traits might help an animal adapt to their environment.

Before class
In each bag, put a small handful of alphabet noodles. Make sure that each has at least several of the following letters: E L W H A.

1. Pair the students up into teams.
2. Give each team a bag with the alphabet noodles.

  • The noodles represent all the characteristics in a population of whales. The students play the part of nature, selecting and eliminating certain characteristics because of environmental pressures.

3. Have the students pick five letters at a time out of the bag.
4. The students may throw back into the bag all the letters E, L, W, H and A.

  • Those letters stand for characteristics that help the whale to survive (for example, thicker blubber).

5. All other letters should be set aside; they represent a whale that died off because they had characteristics that were not useful or were harmful to them (for example, thin or no blubber).

Little by little, the students will eliminate the useless or harmful traits and will concentrate on the good ones in the bag (our "population"). Sooner or later they will draw five letters that happen to spell whale. The students didn't plan it that way; neither did nature. But this is how whales evolved to have a thick, insulating layer of blubber.
*Note: The game can be continued by using letters typed on the computer/printed out and cut up.

Here are some thought questions to ask your students:

  1. What are some types of environmental pressures that may have caused some species of whales to evolve with thicker blubber than others?
    Cold water! For example, Northern Right Whales, which live in cold northern waters, can have blubber that is more than 1 foot thick.
  2. What do we know about whales that tell us that they are related to bears, dogs, cats and humans?
    They are mammals and so have hair (whales, dolphins and porpoises all have at least a few "whiskers" around the snout area), nurse their young which are born live, breathe air and are warm blooded.
  3. If whales are mammals, how can they survive living in the ocean? We know that they have thick blubber to keep them warm. What are other ways that they have evolved for a marine lifestyle?
    • Their bodies have become very streamlined and torpedo-like.
    • Their forelimbs have become paddle-like.
    • They can hold their breath for long periods of time while swimming.
    • Their nostrils have migrated over time to the tops of their heads for easy breathing while swimming.
    • They have lost their hind limbs and now have a stiff pair of flat "flukes" which make up their powerful tail used for swimming.
    • They have lost nearly all their hair to become sleek and slippery in the water.
    • They have lost their external ears and other body parts that stick out, again, so that they are more streamlined in the water.