Spanish Language Lesson Plan Guide for Robust Learning – The Gray Whale

Planning to study the Gray Whale migration?  Why not mix in a little Spanish? You don’t have to learn Spanish only in a sharply delineated time frame!  It can and should be mixed in with other studies too, and in a more fluid manner.  Why not? You are homeschooling! Make your learning robust!

Focusing on the Gray Whale migration brings with it lessons about geography in English and Spanish (they migrate every year between Baja California, Mexico and the Arctic Sea), marine life (and the Spanish vocabulary that might entail), colors (what colors are the barnacles that live on the whale? what colors are the babies when they are born?), and especially numbers!  These mammals are HUGE and all that they do is HUGE.  Huge-ness bring with lots of numbers!

A Robust Lesson Plan!

Gray Whale

Gray whale checking out the humans! Is he Spy Hopping? Picture from Sparky Leigh’s story “Touching a Gray Whale” here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkyleigh/sets/549467/with/2851866/

After studying about this amazing mammal while I was researching this article, I not only want to study it, I want to go see one, touch one and even kiss one!  What? According to the thousands of tourists who travel to see the whales at their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico, the whales maneuver their 80,000 tons close to the tourists with the conscious intent to be rubbed.  It’s even believed they deliberately position their babies close to the boats so they can be touched too. Some even rise vertically out of the water in what is known as spy hopping, and the visitors lean over their boats and kiss these friendly animals!

 

Gray Whale leaning in for kiss

Gray Whale leaning in for a kiss! Isn’t he cute? (Picture below is by Ryan Harvey and can be seen at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanh/5539298268/in/photostream/)

Numbers! Numbers! Numbers! and The Gray Whale!

Let’s go back to the numbers and have some fun!  Have you already learned numbers up to 100?  If not, this lesson will take you up to 100 and waaaay beyond! Take the time to learn some of the numbers if you haven’t already. The two resources I’ve used for this article are listed below. Have your kids take a look at the resources first! And take a look with them! Do you have a tape measure handy?

Let’s start with the easy numbers!

How many blow holes do they have?   Can you guess from the picture?  Dos! (2)

Gray whale blowhole

Gray whales have two blowholes!!! Picture from Sparky Leigh’s story “Touching a Gray Whale” here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkyleigh/sets/549467/with/2851866/

How often do they blow water through their blow holes every minute? De dos o tres veces.
(2 to 3 times).

How many babies do they have? Uno – cada dos a tres años.  (One – every 2 to 3 years)

How many travel together?  Uno. (One)  Viven solos o en groups pequeños. (They live alone or in small groups).

How many times a year do they migrate? Dos veces (two times).  Once in summer and once in winter.

How long are their baleen that hang in their mouth to strain out the water and keep the food in? Diez pulgadas.  (10 inches).

Gray Whale Baleen

Do you see the Baleen? Picture by Ryan Harvey and can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanh/5539298268/in/photostream/

What is the length of a Gray Whale calf  when it is born?  Dieciseis pies (Sixteen feet)
(
Pull out your tape measure here!  Count off the feet as you pull it out and see just how long these babies are!!!)

How long do adult Gray Whales live on average? Cuarenta años.  (40 years) (some say even more, like 50!)  (Can you count in Spanish to 100 in tens?)

How much mother’s milk do calves drink per day?  De cincuenta a ochenta libras (50 — 80 pounds) and not an easy feat given they drink under water!

How many months do the calves stay with their mothers before achieving independence?  De siete a nueve meses (7 – 9 months) (Seems like a very short time to me!)

How old are they when they can have babies? Entre seis a doce años (between six and twelve years).

What is the estimated population of the Western Gray Whale? These guys live near Korea and China and their numbers are dangerously low!  Cien (100)

How many weeks earlier have the whales been spotted migrating south in the last twenty years due to climate change?  Dos (Two).

How High Can You Go?!

Now for a few higher numbers!

What is the maximum length of an adult Gray Whale?  Cuarenta y ocho pies (48 feet)
Get out that tape measure again and count off the feet!  Are you amazed yet?

How much do they weigh? Ochenta mil libras (80,000 pounds)

How much do babies weigh when they are born?  Mil quinientas libras (1500 pounds)

What is the estimated population of the Eastern Gray Whales? These are the ones that migrate up the coast from Baja California, Mexico up to the Arctic Sea.  Veintiseis mil (26,000) They are no longer endangered. Yeah! 

What distance do they travel during their migration? Diez mil millas o más  (10,000 or more miles)! Wow!

Touching Gray Whale

Touching a Gray Whale
Picture from Sparky Leigh’s story “Touching a Gray Whale” here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparkyleigh/sets/549467/with/2851866/

How deep do they dive for food? Quinientos pies (500 feet)

How heavy is its tongue?  De tres mil a cinco mil libras. (3,000 to 5,000 pounds) What?!

Gray whale breaching

Gray whale breaching
By Merrill Gosho, NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEschrichtius_robustus_01.jpg

The Grand Finale!

The Grand Finale of your study?  Measuring this ‘gigante enorme” outside!  We did this years ago with my own boys.  At the time, we were using a 4H lesson and used flour to measure out the whale on the grass.  We then sat inside the whale and took pictures.  Here are some directions for the measurements of a Gray Whale!  Use (lots) of sidewalk chalk in a parking lot, flour on grass, or get creative with (again, lots of) butcher paper. If you count out the measurements as you go, this gives you lots of practice with numbers! Journey North Gray Whale Drawing Clues

Bonus Questions!

How many times kissing a baby Gray Whale does it take to fall in awe of these creatures? Uno!

When will you plan your next trip to go whale watching!?  :)

A Poem by Francisco X. Alarcon

Ángeles del mar
qué maravilla
ver a las ballenas
muy alto saltar

con las enormes
aletas de la cola
diciendo “adiós”

cuando al sur
se marchan
a invernar**

Fluke of Gray Whale

Adiós! Fluke of a Gray Whale. Picture by Ryan Harvey and can be seen here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanh/5539298268/in/photostream/

**Sea Angels
what a sight / to see whales / jump up high
with their huge / tailspins waving / “good-bye”
on their way / south to pass / the winter
From collection of poems “Angels Ride Bikes”

Resources:

Kids Times, The Gray Whale

Journey North, The Gray Whale

Want to check out a curriculum that believes in robust learning and builds the Homeschooling lifestyles into its lessons?  Try R.E.A.L. Homeschool Spanish.  Relax, Enjoy, and Learn Spanish!