Students will use "Susea" the seal—a seal toy that grows in water—to discover the scientific process. This lesson was created by Maggie Prevenas who took part in the Bering Ecosystem Study on the USCGC Healy in the Bering Sea.
Students interact with a seal that grows in water to practice basic measuring and scientific inquiry skills, while learning valuable lessons about the importance of studying wildlife.
Tell students the story of Susea the seal (below), or create your own seal story!
A short while ago in the Bering Sea, Mrs. Prevenas went on a scientific expedition to help learn more about global climate change. While she was there, she did research with PHOCIDS, also known as earless seals. Earless seals DO have an ear, but they don’t have an EXTERNAL ear you can see. She saw spotted, ribbon, bearded, and ringed seals. She even seal baby sat one spotted seal whose mumma was being tagged for research. She enjoyed it very much. She played all sorts of fun educational games with the babies.
News of her skill of seal sitting got out to all the mumma spotted seals in the Bering Sea. Soon she was in great demand getting calls from the ice to come on down and seal sit the little ones while the mummas got tagged, or were out galumping for food. One day, she sadly witnessed a polar bear catching a mumma seal and taking it back to the polar bear den. Nature can be tough. Twin baby seals had lost their mumma!
Mrs. Prevenas had a great idea. She would shrink the baby seals to a very small size and bring them back with her to Hawaii. Then when she got back to her island, she would expand them back to regular size and find a nice Hawaiian Monk Seal family that would adopt them. They could live out the rest of their lives in the warm clear blue waters of Hawaii.
The scientists agreed to help. They created a special machine that would dehydrate the seals so that they could be easily packed or mailed. Mrs. Prevenas put the twin seals through the machine and packed them into her gear bag. She left for the gentle warm waters of Hawaii with the babies safe in her pack.
But ouwe! Nature strikes again. In the second part of the scientific mission that occurred in May and early June, scientists witnessed another polar bear attack. Another mumma spotted seal had become polar bear food! Now another baby seal was a sad lonely orphan. They remembered what Mrs. Prevenas had done to the twin seals! Quick as the flash of polar bear claws, they dehydrated the baby spotted seal and placed it safe in the cargo hold of the ship. It was forgotten for two months!
When the ship got back to Seattle and was unpacked, the seal scientists found the dehydrated seal at the bottom of the box. What to do? Why send it to Mrs. Prevenas who would rehydrate it, find a lonely Hawaiian Monk Seal mumma, and give the baby spotted seal a new home.
Can you help her out by rehydrating the baby spotted seal? She needs to know how much it is going to weigh and how long it will get in 15 days, after the process is over.
Submerge the shrunken seal toy in water where everyone in the class can watch the changes that take place in the seal daily. Be prepared to transfer the seal to new containers as it grows.
Over 3-4 week period, periodically measure and weigh the seal. Revisit the "Shrunken Seal Inquiry" worksheet to reevaluate student hypothesis, experiment, and conclusions. Use the "Susea the Seal Contest" worksheet to make predictions about the seal's growth.
Visit Ms. Prevenas' journal from the "Bering Ecosystem Study." Read about the seal research that was conducted in the Bering Sea. Have a discussion about the research challenges and benefits.
Standards5-8 Content Standard A: Science As Inquiry: a. Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry Content Standard C: Life Science: d. Populations and ecosystems Content Standard F: Science In Personal and Social Perspectives: b. Populations, resources, and environments
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