An Unforgettable Journey

A Web Quest by

Andrew S. Basler

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Introduction  |  Task  |  Process  |  Evaluation  |  Conclusion  |  Teachers  |  Credits


    Whales are the largest mammals in the world.  Found in every ocean, whales make up an important classification of ocean animals.  Their meat, bones and blubber were highly prized by many cultures, and in America's early history, whale hunting was a staple of the national economy.  It is important to realize however, that not all whales are the same, and the order of Cetaceans contains many different species.  Each species has unique characteristics that allow it to survive it it's particular ocean environment.  



    In this task, you will be broken up into groups.  Each group will be given the common name of a whale to research.  The group will use the internet to research their whale and find the whale's scientific classification.  After that, the group will find unique characteristics of their whale that distinguish it from other whales.  Finally, the group will research how the evolution of those characteristics enable the whale to survive in a specific niche of the ocean biome.  After this research, the group will give a short presentation to the class outlining the findings.  Before beginning the process, skip down to the Evaluation Rubric so you will know what your grade is based upon.







    1.  Students will first watch the IMAX dvd Whales - An Unforgettable Journey (50 mins).  The movie will provide good background information on different whale species.

    2.  After the movie, the class will divide into groups.  Each group will select a different whale to research.  Here are the choices:

             Blue Whale

             Right Whale

             Humpback Whale

             Sperm Whale

             Killer Whale (orca)

             Beluga Whale

             Grey Whale

    3.  After choosing a whale, the students will use the following web sites to classify their whale, learn about the whale's unique characteristics, and how those characteristics allow survival within a specific ocean niche.

            Wikipedia on Scientific Classification 

            Whale Classification

            Enchanted Learning Whales

            Whale Site

    4.  In addition to the above links, you may want to customize your own internet searches through the Google Search Engine.

    5.  Remember that you are trying to classify your whale through It's order, family, genus, and species. 

    6.  In addition to classifying the organism, find unique characteristics of your whale.  Where does it live?  Is it migratory?  How does it eat?  Etc. 

    7.  After your research is complete, prepare a short class presentation outlining your findings.  The purpose of this presentation is to show the class how your whale is unique, in both scientific classification and characteristics.  The presentation should be between 5 and 10 minutes, with each group member participating.



    Your grade will be based on the following rubric:


Oral Presentation Rubric Possible Points Self-Assessment Teacher Assessment
Provided depth in research of whales.  Scientific classification, characteristics, etc. included. 50

Group participation - each member contributed to research and presentation. 25    
Communication Skills (eye contact, posture, clear voice, appropriate volume, transitions between speakers smooth, , Stayed within time limits (5-10 minutes). 25

Total Possible Points






   Whales are very unique ocean mammals.  Over the years, they have evolved characteristics that help them survive.  Blow holes, baleen, echolocation, and migratory behavior are all characteristics of survival.  In addition, each whale is unique from other whales and the differences allow a special scientific name that distinguishes the species.  In this Web Quest, you learned about classification based on a species differences.





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   Grade Band:  9 - 12, Life Sciences

   Tennessee Curriculum Standards:  Life Science

            5.0 Classification and Environmental Diversity

            5.2 compare systems of classification

            6.4 relate environmental change to natural selection, mutation, and adaptation that may lead to the emergence of a new  species    or the extinction of an existing species.

Preceding and Ensuing Instruction:       

Before beginning the process, the teacher should show the IMAX dvd Whales - An Unforgettable Journey (50 minutes).  The teacher should then assist with internet research.  The students should be able to complete the internet research on their own, but the teacher might want to go over some basic searching techniques that help cut down research time.  If time is a problem, the teacher might want to substitute a class discussion or informal presentations in place of the given post-research presentations. 

Purpose of Web Quest and Learning Improvements:

The purpose of this Web Quest is to introduce students to the scientific classification system, to further understanding of differences in similar species, to further understanding of evolution, and traits that enable survival.  To promote the internet as a useful research tool, to promote teamwork skills through group research and presentation, to promote oral presentation skills through group presentation, and to reinforce learned information through oral repetition and group presentations.




Enchanted Learning. (2002).  Whales.  Retrieved February 16, 2004 from http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/whales/classification/index.shtml

Google.  (2004).  Search Engine.  Retrieved February 16, 2004 from http://www.google.com

Jaap's Marine Mammal Page. (2001).  Classification of Whales.  Retrieved February 16, 2004 from http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/jaap/Cetacea.htm

Slingshot (1997).  Whales - An Unforgettable Journey [dvd].  Toronto, Canada:  IMAX.

Whales on the Net.  (1995).  Discovering Whales.  Retrieved February 16, 2004 from http://www.omplace.com/omsites/discover/index.html

Wikipedia.  (2004).  Scientific Classification.  Retrieved February 16, 2004 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_classification



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