Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center

TITLE:    Beans and Baleen

AUTHOR:   Anne Germain Lucas, Houghtaling Elem.,
          Ketchikan, AK

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:  2-8, Science/Mathematics

OVERVIEW:  Students will engage in a simulation
designed to mirror some of the problems that scientists
face when counting populations.
PURPOSE:  This activity uses beans to focus on some of
the techniques and problems involved in estimating size
of whale populations.

OBJECTIVE(s):  Students will be able to:
1. collect and organize data
2. make a prediction based on the collection of data
3. explain his/her thinking (justify his/her

1.   counting box (8 x 8 box with 4x4 window) -
     assemble box, using acetate, and tape
2.   large lima beans, lentils, pinto beans (or any
     three types of beans to represent three
     populations - and watermelon seeds to represent
     unidentified objects
3.   poster with key or guide showing which bean
     represents which whale
4.   student recording sheet
5.   overhead projector

ORCA (Ocean Related Curriculum Activities), Marine
Education Project, Washington Sea Grant, Pacific
Science Center, 200 2nd Ave. N., Seattle, WA. 98109

Robin Snyder & John Dickenson, Point Higgins
Elementary, Pouch Z, Ketchikan, Alaska 99901

1.   Tell students they are going to be scientists
     whose job will be to record whale populations in a
     certain area.
2.   Ask students how they would count a whale
     population. Accept all responses.
3.   Explain that present whale populations are
     difficult to estimate, and that estimates of the
     original populations of whales are not much more
     than educated guesses. The International Whaling
     Commission, the only worldwide organization with
     any responsibility for controlling the whaling
     industry, bases its population estimates on
     sightings and the number of whales caught compared
     to the effort involved.
4.   Explain to students that they will be recording
     the number of whales sighted on four different
5.   Use three types of beans to represent three whale
     populations. For example put 4 limas, 3 pintos, 6
     lentils in a sealed envelope. Open the envelope
     and spill into the ocean area (8 x 8 box). Shake
     the box back and forth and place on overhead
6.   Students count and record what they see. Ask
     students to describe the difficulties in counting.
     Ask them what they think are some problems in
     trying to count whale populations. (The whales
     move around; you can't tell if you've counted them
     before or not; they live in areas we can't always
     watch; you can't always identify what you
     see...etc.). Ham it up! After 1st sighting, tell
     them that it's time for bed. Kids will sleep and
     snore, etc. Next day, they are back on the ocean.
     There are white caps, lots of wind, etc. The
     sightings take place on four consecutive days.
7.   Ask students to predict the total population for
     each species based on their data.
8.   Have students record their thinking.
9.   Share the students' findings.
10.  Show them the actual population.

You can extend this activity to other populations -
especially populations relevant to your area, like Bald
Eagles in SE Alaska, moose in interior Alaska, elk in
Oregon, etc.

The students will realize that their predictions are
way off - even if they tried to make "educated
guesses", and this is much the same frustration as a
real oceanographer experiences.

Name of Researcher
Observation window = 1/4 of area (include a sketch of

The largest whales are blue whales, the next largest
are humpback whales, and the smallest are killer

     draw large lima bean and label blue whale
     draw pinto and label humpback whale
     draw lentil and label killer whale

sightings    date   blue   killer   humpback   other

1st sighting
2nd sighting
third sighting
fourth sighting

Predict total population for each species of whales
based on your observations (sightings)
   blue______    killer________    humpback________

Explain your thinking (justify your conclusions)


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