Illustrative Examples of Units of Practice

Map It: Marine Animal Migrations


In this interdisciplinary unit, students will use the Internet to collect actual satellite tagging data to monitor movements of a living individual marine animal of their choice. They will access an online Distance Generator to compile a spreadsheet, chart, and map to display their marine animal's movement. The students will then compare and analyze their data to generate a question that they will submit by email to an "Ask a Scientist" expert.


Unit Details:

Subjects: Math, Science, Social Studies

Learning Levels: Grades 4-9

Author(s): Leonard Hornung



Come observe the movements of real live breathing marine animals and find out where they live. Do they stay in one place or migrate vast distances? Can't find your answer? Then use the Internet to ask a real marine scientist.


Life Science 

Science 6-8

Science 9-12

Mathematics 3-5

Mathematics 6-8

Mathematics 9-12

Social Studies 3-5

Social Studies 6-8

Social Studies 9-12


English Language Arts: 


Social Studies




Students will work in the classroom and need to have Internet-connected computer access time. The lesson will take place over several lesson periods. Students will work collaboratively in small groups to share their ideas, make suggestions to each other, and to facilitate access to the computers. It is expected students will have a knowledge of navigating the Internet and the making of charts, graphs and reading longitude and latitude coordinates and access to the appropriate software to make the charts and graphs.



Wh at Do We Know?

Tell students they are going to be a marine scientist and that they are going to observe the movement of real live marine animals using Satellite tags. In small groups have students create a Concept Web of what they know about Marine Animals, who they are, and where they live using Inspiration software or at their desks. Have students discuss their ideas as a class and make a class Concept Web. Back in their groups, have students generate questions about what they think they could find out by using satellites to track the movement of marine animals through their water environment.  

Using the Satellite Tags

Show the students one of the “Archived Satellite Tagging Projects” (see WhaleNet Archive URL below) and an example of a generated map. Make sure they know how to read the date, longitude and latitude on the Satellite Tag chart.

Students will then create a blank data chart onto which they will plot their starting and ending period coordinates.

In groups, provide two different satellite tag charts that display different time periods and have them discuss what recording period they would choose (day, week, or month) and why? Discuss their ideas with the whole class so they understand that not all animals are recorded in the same time period and how the time periods will change the distance their animal will move.

Have students explore the “Archived Satellite Tagging Projects” at WhaleNet Archive URL below. Choose one of the marine animals on the page. Have students follow the links to the Satellite Tag chart for their chosen marine animal and decide whether to record the movement by the day, the week, or the month and enter the starting and ending periods in their charts.

Students will then enter this data in the online “Distance Generator” (see URL below) to find the distance between the two points they have recorded in their charts.  

The data from these charts are compiled and transferred into a spreadsheet and a graph of their data is to be generated.  

Students will plot these coordinates on a map they will print from the provided web page, or they can make their own map from the online “Map Generator”. (see URL below)

  Students will analyze their chart, graphs, and maps and discuss their discoveries in their groups. Each student will write a question to the “Ask a Scientist” expert. The group and the teacher will edit these questions. Students will then search the “Ask Archives” Link on the “Ask a Scientist” URL below to see if their question has been answered. If they can’t find an answer they will then email their question to the “Ask a Scientist” expert.

  Students will be responsible to make a presentation to their class reflecting on what they found out about their initial question and what led them to formulate their “Ask a Scientist” question. Possible presentation formats could include Hyperstudio, maps, posters, speeches, drawings, spreadsheets, or graphs.


The teacher will act as facilitator, extending students’ questions and providing technical help using the software. Students will work individually; interact in small groups, in whole class discussions, and electronically with the “Ask a Scientist” expert.


Students will be assessed on how creative and informative their presentation to the class is, their reflective thinking and the relevance of their “Ask a Scientist” question to the data presented in their graphs and maps. This will include observations of group discussion and student self-evaluation.


Right Whale Kit

This Lesson Plan is intended to be part of a larger Unit on the Right Whale. The Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History has available several copies of the “Right Whale Kit” that grew out of the work of East Coast Eco Systems, and the staff and students of Islands Consolidated School, Freeport, Nova Scotia. These kits are available on a loan basis to any Nova Scotia school/teacher requesting them.


Sufficient Internet connected computers and printers.


Required: spreadsheet/graphing software

Additional Recommended: 


Students can research and find out more information, for their chosen marine animal, about feeding habits, classifications of marine life, environmental concerns, tourism, etc and extend their presentations to include these findings.

Students can compile their animal’s movements on to a class map or to a Hyperstudio stack that could be presented on the Internet.