Story Time with Whale Acoustics

First, let me apologize for being a little late with this post.  I generally post the second Friday of every month; It’s Tuesday. One of the reasons I’m late is because I flew back to my hometown in Birmingham, Alabama as an invited teacher at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.  I had the privilege of running three lessons on whale communication for students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade.  Admittedly they kept me on my toes! Spending time with children is exciting and inspiring. We did a number of activities to demonstrate how marine mammals use sound to communicate. Students were given a small shaker containing one of four materials (hazelnuts, tacks, aduki beans, or rice) and they had to use their ears alone to find their “pods”.  We had fin whales, humpback whales, killer whales, and beluga whales.  Each pod was then given a ribbon the length of their whale to stretch out across the activity room.  Even I was impressed with how big a fin whale really is!

For the older groups we talked about the relationship between size and pitch (frequency), learned how to read spectrograms, and I introduced the concept of masking and noise pollution by playing a series of whale calls and adding vessel noise.  For the kindergartners and first graders, however, it seemed more appropriate to introduce the concept of sound in the ocean with a story.  I re-purposed a true story about a killer whale from Puget Sound named Springer who was separated from, and later reunited with her pod.  In real life recordings were made of Springer’s vocalizations to help identify which pod she belonged to.  In the story below, Springer uses her family whistle to try and re-connect, and she meets a number of other whales along the way. On each page I was able to play recordings of the animals in the pictures, so my young students could hear the actual voices of the animals. Enjoy!

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