- Understanding and explaining how blubber helps sea mammals adapt to cold temperatures in the ocean
- Identifying the mammals among a variety of ocean animals
Before You Begin
- Ocean Animal Picture Cards
- Thin rubber gloves (one per student)
- Vegetable shortening
- Bowls of cold water
- Quart-size zip-close bag
- Pencils and paper
Download, print and cut apart the set of Ocean Animal Picture Cards.
Fill the zip-close bag with shortening.
- Hold up each ocean animal picture card, asking students to guess which animals are mammals (the whale, dolphin and walrus).
- Explain that whales, dolphins and walrus are not fish, but mammals that have adapted to live in the ocean.
- Tell students that mammals are warm-blooded and that their body temperatures must remain constant, even in the cold ocean environment.
Explain that one important adaptation of ocean mammals is the blubber, or thick layer of fat, that these animals have beneath their skin.
- Explain to students that they will conduct an experiment to demonstrate how blubber helps keep ocean mammals warm.
- Divide the class into small groups and give each group a bowl of cold water.
- Have each student put on a rubber glove and take turns placing their gloved hand in the cold water for 20–30 seconds.
- Ask students to discuss how their hand feels in the water. Is it cold or warm? Does it feel colder the longer it stays in the water?
- Have students repeat the experiment. This time, have each student place their gloved hand in the bag of shortening before putting it in the water.
(The vegetable shortening will simulate a layer of blubber.)
- Invite students to compare how the cold water feels to both the hand in the shortening bag and the hand without it.
(Most students will find that the hand that is “insulated” with shortening stays warmer than the other hand.)
- Have students draw a picture illustrating the steps of this experiment.
- Invite students to explain what they think the experiment demonstrates about the blubber on a sea mammal, as well as what function this blubber serves.
the 3rd–5th Grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)