Sensory Biology and the
Plight of the Right Whales
Created by Drs. Jill C. Fegley and Sara M. Lindsay, University of Maine
This lesson was developed to introduce high school students (grades 9-12) to the topic of sensory perception in the marine environment. The WebQuest introduces the role of acoustic cues in ocean ecology and challenges students to determine if acoustic warning devices are useful tools to prevent right whale fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes in the Gulf of Maine.
This WebQuest is designed to be used after an initial introduction by the teacher to the issues associated with right whale mortalities in the Gulf of Maine. Teachers should also discuss the broad topic of sensory biology and how animals in the marine environment perceive their surroundings. After this brief introduction, the teacher should only act as a facilitator during the rest of the process. This WebQuest will take about 3 classes to complete the research aspect and another 2-3 classes to produce the written proposal and the PowerPoint presentation. In the student section of the WebQuest, teachers can find a detailed description of what is required by all students (Process). Groups of 4 students can be chosen by the students or by the teacher. All students are required to produce written notes and to participate in the group activities.
Teachers may have to adapt the process depending on the types and quantity of technology at their school. We have provided a number of useful websites but students may wish to search for more. Thus, both teachers and students should be familiar with Internet searches. Each individual (if possible) or group should have access to a computer for both their initial information gathering as well as for the development of their proposal and presentation. If computer access is limited, the WebQuest can be completed using traditional library book searches. Presentations do not have to be done in PowerPoint but can be in the form of overheads or posters.
We believe that this WebQuest provides an alternative to the more traditional method of classroom instruction - lecturing and note taking. This inquiry-based activity allows students to take an active role in problem solving and development of a feasible solution. By performing this task, students will be working together in groups, thus developing group participation skills. In addition, the students will be dealing with a real life, current environmental issue. This activity will allow them to learn about the plight of the right whales as well as create real solutions to real problems.
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© Fegley & Lindsay - Last Updated September 2008