Nature's largest creature on cinema's largest screens — it's a recipe to inspire awe in viewers of all ages. But there are even more opportunities for wonder when using the blue whale to spark discussions about life science and exploration. Blue whales represent biology at extremes: they are one of the biggest, loudest, and strongest animals ever to have traversed the planet. Not only do they teach us lessons about their own biology, they represent engaging windows into understanding life at all scales.
From the depths of the ocean to our own backyard, the blue whale can serve as an entry point for understanding how animals adapt and thrive in their specific environments. Each of the modules below focus on a topic that is central to whale biology: Communication, Feeding and (of course) Size! Together, they bridge the gap between the extremes of whale biology and the characteristics of wildlife much closer to home.
Join hosts Monica Barajas and Mariela Lopez, two science educators at the California Science Center, as they guide viewers through real-world whale research expeditions in the Gulf of California and to the Seychelles Islands— all in search of answers to some of our biggest questions about blue whale behavior. And in the series of Whale Talk videos, wildlife biologist Dr. David Cade shares his expertise and experience in researching blue whales at the John Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay, California.
Outreach and educational materials created by California Science Center and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios.
Ocean Rumbles: How do blue whales communicate?
It's one of the most common questions students ask: What do whales sound like? Oceanographer Kate Stafford has spent her career listening to whale calls and trying to figure out what messages they're sending far beneath the ocean surface — and her insight into observing patterns is a lesson we can apply to nature of all scales. Explore the activity guide, facilitation videos, and the interactive Whale Beats to dive deeper into how whales and other ocean creatures communicate — and what we can learn by listening in!
Discover how blue whales and other ocean dwellers communicate. Then use their sounds to compose your own musical masterpiece. What patterns can you create?
Test your whale listening skills! Listen for patterns to find out which whale is making the call in this challenging matching game. Hearing isn’t the only way to experience sounds!
Video: What Calls Do Blue Whales Make?
Listen in on how wildlife biologist Dr. David Cade describes what the sounds feel like and explains what they might mean.
Video: How to Make a Photophone
Use this video to build a do-it-yourself device called a photophone that can turn your voice into a visual pattern.
Video: Facilitation Guide
This video will walk you through how to lead the Can You Hear Me Now? activity with ease and confidence!
Lunge Feeding: How do blue whales eat?
Blue whales are seriously super eaters. Their diet might seem pretty picky to us, but krill provide these giants with plenty of energy for ocean travel — and as Dr. Jeremy Kizska explains, it's a pretty amazing feat that whales have adapted so perfectly to eating krill. Their method of lunge feeding is precise and powerful, and a great opportunity to teach young learners about feeding strategies across the animal kingdom. Click into the AR Encounter app to see lunge feeding up close, plus activities and videos that go into much more detail about how animals derive energy from the food they eat.
Blue Whales AR Encounter
Explore the blue whale up-close in immersive augmented reality.
What’s it like to be a hungry, hungry blue whale? Find out as you scour the ocean searching for your favorite food - krill - to win the game. But beware - the ocean is a tricky place to navigate; there will be some surprises along the way!
Video: Facilitation Guide
Get ready to engage participants in an active game to lunge feed and migrate like blue whales.
Video: How do you study blue whale feeding?
Follow wildlife biologist, Dr. David Cade, in the field as he studies blue whales and their unique feeding method - the lunge gulp!
Video: Why do you study blue whale poop?
It’s not very often that you are around the largest living creature on Earth when it poops, but when you are…you race your boat alongside it to scoop some up!
Biggest Ever: How do blue whales measure up?
It's true: blue whales are the biggest ever animals to roam the planet! It's a dimension of their biology that's relevant to all sorts of behaviors and features, but it also impacts how scientists prepare to study blue whales in the field. With a team of researchers in the Gulf of California, marine biologist Jasivi Arcos has learned to use drones to measure whales from high in the sky — one of the only ways that scientists can actually get a clear observation! The activities linked below prompt young learners to think of similar, innovative methods to measure and estimate size, just like scientists do every day when studying blue whales.
Blue Whales AR Encounter
Explore the blue whale up-close in immersive augmented reality, and transform your very own whale from tabletop miniature to life-size giant!
A blue whale is BIG, but how big is BIG? Find out by measuring yourself and using ratios to determine how large a blue whale really is.
Video: How do you measure a blue whale?
Ever wonder how we measure 80-foot blue whales in the ocean? Using math, technology, and photographs, scientists can estimate the size of a blue whale and much more.
Facilitation Guide (Part 1)
Size Up! Part 1 is all about making the large measurements of a blue whale possible, but how do we show that with our own bodies? Check out the ideas and information in this video that will make leading the activity smooth sailing!
Facilitation Guide (Part 2)
Put a couple of meter sticks and a math equation in the same space, and you get a tool to estimate the size of a blue whale! This video offers visuals and directions that will make this extension activity in Size Up! a breeze.