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Web Quest for 2nd Grade (About Mammals ) Designed by Shannon San Bento Based on a template from San Diego State Univers

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What are Whales?. Web Quest for 2nd Grade (About Mammals ) Designed by Shannon San Bento Based on a template from San Diego State University’s The Web Quest Page.

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What are Whales?

Web Quest for 2nd Grade

(About Mammals)



Shannon San Bento

Based on a template from San Diego State University’sThe Web Quest Page

This lesson was developed as part of the elementary science methods course at Roger Williams University in Bristol , Rhode Island.

For this Web Quest, students are asked to be whale watchers. They are asked by the captain and crew of a whale watching boat to research whales on the Internet and in the appropriate books in the classroom. They are to find out how whales are similar to humans and create an ABC Book. This book will enable them to teach the rest of the class the characteristics to answer the question, “Why are whales mammals?”

Why is a Whale a Mammal?


This lesson is targeted for Second Grade Science. This lesson should be integrated in a unit teaching students about mammals.


Several areas related to The Living Environment have received considerable research attention over recent years. These include student meanings of the terms animal, plant, and living; students' ideas about plant nutrition; and their understanding of genetics and natural selection. Research has focused on what students understand about the living environment at isolated points in time or on how this understanding evolves naturally in students. Research on instructional interventions that improve students understanding is limited.

5a Diversity of Life

Classification of organisms Some research indicates that in 2nd grade there is a shift in children's understanding of organisms from representations based on perceptual and behavioral features to representations in which central principles of biological theory are most important. Children at this age can begin to understand that animals of the same species have similar internal parts and offspring. When asked to group certain organisms, lower elementary-school students form groups of different status—for example, organisms that are able to fly and organisms that fight each other. Upper elementary-school students tend to use a number of mutually exclusive groups rather than a hierarchy of groups. Some groups are based on observable features; others on concepts.

Meaning of the word "animal"Elementary- and middle-school students hold a much more restricted meaning than biologists for the word "animal“. For example, most students list only vertebrates as animals. Elementary- and middle-school students use such criteria as number of legs, body covering, and habitat to decide whether things are animals. High-school students frequently use attributes that are common to both plants and animals (e.g., reproduction and respiration) as criteria. Because upper elementary-school students tend not to use hierarchical classification, they may have difficulty understanding that an organism can be classified as both a bird and an animal.

Curriculum Standards
  • National Science Education Standards
  • Life Science
  • CONTENT STANDARD C:As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of
  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water, and food; plants require air, water, nutrients, and light. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. The world has many different environments, and distinct environments support the life of different types of organisms.
  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.
  • The behavior of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger) and by external cues (such as a change in the environment). Humans and other organisms have senses that help them detect internal and external cues.
  • Life cycles of organisms
  • Benchmarks for Science Literacy
  • A. Diversity of LifeBy the end of 2nd grade, students should know that:
  • Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another.
  • Plants and animals have features that help them live in different environments.
  • Stories sometimes give plants and animals attributes they really do not have.


Curriculum Standards (continued)
  • English Language Arts Standards
  • Standard 4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes
  • Level   I   [Grade:  K-2]
  • 1. Uses a variety of sources to gather information (e.g., informational books, pictures, charts, indexes, videos, television programs, guest speakers, Internet, own observation)
  • Standard 7. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
  • Level   I   [Grade:  K-2]
  •  1. Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts (e.g., written directions, signs, captions, warning labels, informational books)
  •  2. Understands the main idea and supporting details of simple expository information
  •  3. Summarizes information found in texts (e.g., retells in own words)
  •  4. Relates new information to prior knowledge and experience
  • Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
  • Level   I   [Grade:  K-2]
  •  1. Makes contributions in class and group discussions (e.g., reports on ideas and personal knowledge about a topic, initiates conversations, connects ideas and experiences with those of others)
  •  2. Uses different voice level, phrasing, and intonation for different situations (e.g., small group settings, informal discussions, reports to the class)
  •  3. Uses level-appropriate vocabulary in speech (e.g., number words; words that describe people, places, things, events, location, actions; synonyms, antonyms; homonyms, word analogies, common figures of speech)


The Process

For the students:

Step 1: Research the many types of whales, by clicking on the links to whale websites and looking in books in the classroom. On paper, make a list of the whales, then write down how they are just like you.Step 2: Are whales fish or like humans? Complete a Venn diagram to show what you have learned.

Step 3: Were you surprised that there were two types of whales; toothed and baleen? Both types have many things in common, but they are unique as well. Learn about each group and then write a short paragraph describing the ways they are alike and the ways they are different. You may want to create a Venn diagram as a graphic organizer for this .Step 4: The crew of the whale watching boat have asked that you create an ABC book to share with your classmates. Using your Venn diagrams to write essays for your book, include interesting facts about whales, their behaviors, and body structure. You are expected to use the information you have gained from the steps above. Be creative and colorful!

Step 5: When your ABC book is finished, read your book orally to the rest of the class.

Creating your ABC Book

* Select two letters from the ABC bucket, located at the front of the classroom. * Create a paragraph for each letter using a keyword that starts with that letter. (use the information you found during your research)

* Put the essays you wrote in your book. (Refer to steps 2 and 3) * Create an informative illustration to go with each paragraph.* You may diagram and label.

For the Teacher:

This lesson should be taught over the course of a week long unit on Whales.

Students can work on their own or in groups of two to do the research, then work independently on their writing of the ABC book.

A variety of books and websites from this web quest need to be provided for the students.

Books should vary according to reading level and be appropriate for the age level of the students.

Make sure all of the students know how to use the computer and navigate a web quest to learn the appropriate material to be able to write about how whales are mammals, not fish.

Students should know how to create a Venn diagram.

Students need to be supplied with the appropriate materials: pencil, paper, staples, crayons and markers, books about whales, and a computer.

Some Resources Needed

Learning About Whales (Learning about Books (Dover)) by Sy Barlowe (Paperback - Aug 8, 1997)

Splash! A Book About Whales And Dolphins (level 3) (Hello Reader) (Paperback) by Melvin Berger, Gilda Berger

Scholastic Q & A : Do Whales Have Belly Buttons? (Scholastic Question & Answer) by Melvin Berger

Whales by Gail Gibbons

Discovering Whales and Dolphins (Learn-About Books) by Janet Craig (School & Library Binding - Oct 1989)


One teacher with an aid would be appropriate for this lesson. The students are working independently or in groups of two to do the research. Teachers can be work as a guide to answer any questions. By this time in second grade, students should be able to research on the internet and in textbooks. For special education students, the teacher’s aide can work more closely with the group, and for ESL students, have a resource teacher available to help with the research. Have appropriate grade-level books for all of the students in the classroom.


Students will explore the Internet and books in the classroom to learn more about Mammals. Students will focus on Whales through their research and learn about the many types of whales, the similarities to humans, and why Whales are mammals, NOT fish.

During a unit on mammals, second grade students will have fun exploring the subject of Whales. This activity enables them to navigate a web quest, research various textbooks in the classroom, write essays on two particular characteristics of whales, and compare toothed vs. baleen and whales vs. humans. They will present this information to the rest of the class through an ABC Book. While each student will write about two specific areas, the entire class will learn the many ways Whales are very similar to humans.

Credits & References

Check out these wonderful whale websites:

Endangered Whales

Zoom Whales

World Wide Whales

Whales on the Net

Killer Whales

With special thanks, this web quest was adapted from a third grade web quest about Whale watching

The WebQuest Page