Resource Type
Completion Time
Less than a week
All Aged
Elizabeth Eubanks
Related Members
Computer with Internet access to skype or upload and view videos as well as read articles listed in the lesson
Video recording or skype capabilities
Graph of currents (included)
Grading rubric – see assessment section (teacher will assign point value)
Students will potentially need minimal art supplies and/or posters and/or video equipment or skype connection
Inupiaq Learning Framework Poster (attached)
General Archaeology and Anthropology
Archaeology and Anthropology
General Life Science
History of Biology and Life Sciences
Life Science
Language & Communication
Organisms and Their Environments
Environmental Studies
Polar Science
General Environmental Studies
General Polar Science


Elizabeth Eubanks M.Ed (working with Angela Gilmour, Anne Jensen, Danielle Dickson, Leslie Pierce, and Rachel Potter) connected with PolarTREC and NOAA TAS. This lesson is inspired by the need to share the importance of the Bowhead Whale in relation to the culture of arctic people. It is a portion of an entire collaborative unit to be utilized between an arctic classroom and a non-arctic classroom with a diverse age group of students.


Students should come away from this lesson understanding that the Bowhead Whale is the foundation of the life and culture of the arctic people year round. Students will also learn about the importance of recording and validating cultural knowledge. Students will describe and chart a general annual hunting (seasonal round template) and festival schedule of the arctic people in relationship to the Whale.

Lesson Preparation

Students should come to this lesson with limited information about the Bowhead Whale and arctic people.


  1. Students will be told that there is a special whale in the Arctic named the Bowhead Whale. They will create a video based on what they know as a class about the whale. The teacher will provide a video recording device and state to the student the following directions:
  2. Work as a group and select a scribe, a video-recorder, an alternate recorder and an introduction writer and a closing remarks writer.
  3. Students will brainstorm various things that they know about the Bowhead Whale and write them down, while deciding who will present what they know - everyone must speak at least once. The person writing the intro will describe who they are (school, grade, purpose) and share what they know prior to a study of the Bowhead Whale. The closing remarks person will develop remarks that include a 'Thank you for watching' and summarize what the group hopes to learn as a result of this project. The scribe will take notes regarding the brainstorming – making of list of what people know about the whale. Students will determine which fact they are going to report for the video. The scribe will also list what the students hope to learn.
  4. The person who writes the intro will be recorded first and then each classmate. Each student will be recorded stating first their name and then what they know about the Bowhead. The person stating the closing remarks will state the remarks and then state what the learners hope to learn more about.
  5. This video will be shared with the North Slope Borough (NSB) school and the NSB school will share how they have depicted what they know about whales.
  6. After sharing and viewing: Show students the video on the elders' thoughts regarding the importance of whaling:
  7. Briefly, share the Inupiaq Learning Framework Poster with students (attached). Discuss the importance of culture, stating that it is so important that they are creating their own curriculum model.
  8. Students will learn about the importance of the whale among the Arctic community. This will be demonstrated ultimately via a skit that depicts a calendar year with a focus on the whale and whale festivities. Students will work individually or with partners to create a portion of the calendar. They will utilize the various topics pertaining to a set month, briefly research the topic and create at most 15 sentences that describe the topic/activity during the given months. They shall create one hands-on learning tool to assist with their skit lines, and include the written month of the activity (students should have computer access and a day or two to create the skit lines and props). This should start with "In December the Inupiaq…" All work will be posted on wiki space.
  9. Have students stand in a circle and perform skit to one another, utilizing month poster with "created prop" for skit. Video record skit to share with NSB students.
  10. Discuss the importance of the whale. Show map with currents (attached). Explain map with currents, potential of oil locations and end lesson – give students time to process and proceed to the next lesson. For the point of this lesson/unit collaboration – will revisit this map often to discuss implications and potential changes in the culture. Currents surrounding the North Slope Borough - 3 boxes represent future oils sites, lines are currents and directions.
  11. Revisit ILF poster.
  12. Evaluate utilizing rubric - see assessment section below.

Framework for Inupiaq Whaling Culture Calendar

Show video:

  • June - Nalukataq Festival - Sharing of Whale, Dancing, etc.

  • July - Seal Hunt - for whaling boats and for fur clothes

  • August - Hunting to add to food supply, still hunting seal – also hunting geese, duck, walrus, various birds (describe what they use these animals for)

  • September - Caribou hunting – make sleeping bags – what is unique about fur from caribou? Trading food for fur +/-. Fishing for tom cod.

  • October – Fall whaling – different than spring whaling (?) throw candy – Whale gives itself to the crew.

  • November - Inupiaq Thanksgiving- Captain of Whaling crew prepares feast and shares whale.

  • December - Christmas another feast – Captain prepares and shares whale. Prepares gear for hunts. Art work with baleen, sewing – Google mitten patterns (why can sewing be the difference between life and death?) Carving.

  • January- Winter Games – research Alaskan Winter Games – demonstrate one of them at least. Also discuss darkness – quieter time.

  • February- Kivgiq Inupiaq trading of foods and goods, Festival with race and lamp burning. Art – sewing new camo covers for parka's.

  • March- Prepare for whaling. Cutting trails. Skinning the whale boat, outside bleaching of seal skins. Female role/male role.

  • April- Whaling begins. Note difference between spring whaling and fall whaling. Differences between women and mens' roles.

  • May- Whaling ends, ice melting– cooking and sharing meat. Celebration after the boat is returned to the land- Apugauti.


This activity is designed to be part of a collaborative process that will engage students of the North Slope Borough and students from the lower 48. The unit will be taught and adapted for students at the grade 1 level and students at the grade 6 level. The unit will start with what students know about Bowhead Whales, they will share this information virtually. Other lessons will pertain to anatomy, migration, nutrition, and a comparison between the Bowhead whale and the North Atlantic Right Whale. A wiki space will be used to address the unit lessons, resources, and student works.


  • Video describing the elders' perspective of whaling:
  • Video Nalukataq: ()
  • Article from Readers Digest: The Cost of Drilling Oil in Alaska
  • Whaling Season: A Year in the Life of an Arctic Whale Scientist by Peter Lourie


Rubric will utilize the questions listed below and students will be granted a certain amount of points determined by teacher. For this individual lesson students will:

  1. Research and write a script containing at least 15 sentences.
  2. Create or locate a prop.
  3. Write one paragraph regarding the importance of the Bowhead Whale to the arctic people.
  4. Make predictions of what will happen if there is an oil spill in the Arctic (one paragraph).
  5. Read Readers Digest Article: The Cost of Drilling Oil in Alaska.
  6. Write a paragraph, create a commentary video, create a poster commenting on the article, student will put his/herself into the mayoral position and determine if they would allow oil drilling. Must exhibit pros and cons for allowing to drill for oil or not. Creativity should be encouraged.


Elizabeth Eubanks, hoocaca [at] Map of currents created by and permission to use by Rachel Potter.


K-4 5-8 Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry: Content Standard C: Life Science: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Abilities b. Understandings a. Characteristics of organisms b. Life cycles of organisms c. Organisms and environments a. Abilities of technological design b. Understandings about science and technology a. Personal health b. Characteristics and changes in populations c. Types of resources d. Changes in environments a. Science as a human endeavor Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: Content Standard C: Life Science: Content Standard D: Earth and Space Science: Content Standard E: Science and Technology: Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry b. Understandings about scientific inquiry a. Structure and function in living systems b. Reproduction and heredity c. Regulation and behavior d. Populations and ecosystems e. Diversity and adaptations of organisms a. Structure of the earth system b. Earth's history c. Earth in the solar system a. Abilities of technological design b. Understandings about science and technology a. Personal health b. Populations, resources, and environments c. Natural hazards d. Risks and benefits e. Science and technology in society a. Science as a human endeavor

Standards Other

Florida Standards SC.6.N.1.5 Recognize that science involves creativity, not just in designing experiments, but also in creating explanations that fit evidence. SC.6.N.2.2 Explain that scientific knowledge is durable because it is open to change as new evidence or interpretations are encountered. SC.6.N.2.3 Recognize that scientists who make contributions to scientific knowledge come from all kinds of backgrounds and possess varied talents, interests, and goals. LA. The student will deliver narrative and informative presentations, including oral responses to literature, and adjust oral language, body language, eye contact, gestures, technology and supporting graphics appropriate to the situation. SC.7.L.17.3 Describe and investigate various limiting factors in the local ecosystem and their impact on native populations, including food, shelter, water, space, disease, parasitism, predation, and nesting sites. SS.7.G.2.4 Describe current major cultural regions of North America. SS.7.G.3.1 Use maps to describe the location, abundance, and variety of natural resources in North America. SS.7.G.4.1 Use geographic terms and tools to explain cultural diffusion throughout North America.

Attachment Size
Whale of Importance Complete Lesson (PDF - 520 KB)519.95 KB 519.95 KB

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.