Dolphin/Whale Watching Lesson Plan

Please note, this lesson plan was created by as a general guide and is not specific to any particular venue listed on our site.

The humpback whale is one of the largest animals on Earth, growing to lengths of more than 50 feet (16 m) and weights of 40 tons (36 metric tonnes).

The short-beaked common  dolphin has a beautiful, distinctive color pattern, with multiple color bands along its sides: dark grey to black on top; light on its belly; yellowish brown and light grey patches on the sides; and a black “mask” connecting the eye to the snout. Adults reach lengths of approximately 7.5-8.5 feet (2-2.5 m) and weights over 440 pounds (200 kilos).

✓ Visit the website of the marine organization leading this field trip to see if student worksheets and other class materials are available.
✓ Call ahead to speak to a group sales person about special programming or hands-on activities for your class, scout or home school group.


– The blue whale is the largest animal to ever have lived on Earth – larger than any of the dinosaurs.
– The tongue alone of a blue whale can weigh as much as an elephant.
– Dolphins sleep by resting one side of the brain at a time. This allows them to continue rising to the surface for air and to keep an eye open to watch out for predators.
– Dolphins use echolocation to find food and navigate. This is a natural version of radar.
– Dolphins can jump as high as 20 feet out of the water.




– Marine: (adjective) To do with the sea, as in marine life
– Cetacean: (noun) Scientific order that includes all whales, dolphins and porpoises
– Dolphin: (noun) A water mammal with a long snout in the whale group
– Classify: (verb) To put things into groups according to their characteristics
– Echolocate: (verb) To send sound waves through air or water that reflect back to the sender to locate distant or invisible objects (prey)
– Endangered: (adjective) To be in danger of becoming extinct
– Species: (noun) One of the more detailed groups into which animals and plants are divided according to their shared characteristics.


Science, Language Arts, and more… 
– Field Trip Lesson connections provide a range of opportunities for learning
– Discovery questions and facts about marine mammals
– Reading content on dolphins, whales, and porpoises
– Behavior: what they eat, how they travel, intelligence
– Habitat: their environment, endangerment, extinction concerns
– Communication: echolocation (how they “speak to each other”) and connections to sonar
– Exploring field research methods used by marine researchers to gather data
– Student-led research projects
– Mapping activities to track dolphin sightings
– Students learn to use nautical and grid maps and plot locations using longitude and latitude
– Essay and Persuasive Writing: Students take a point of view as they write about their dolphin/whale watching experience
Bring the ocean back to your classroom with: 
– In-class discussion and student debates on environmental issues
– Shared reading of student essays
– Letter-writing to environmental groups
– Class presentation to school of learned outcomes