What the book’s about
A picture book introduction to the anatomy, environment, life, and challenges faced by Earth’s largest mammal offers young readers both visual and textual details that relate facts to common elements in their own lives.
Two Activities for ages 4- 8, by Francisca Goldsmith
Activity 1: Whale Sized! for ages 7 and up
Exploring ratios based on the many references to them in The Blue Whale offers kids the opportunity to have concrete experiences with scale.
- Scaled toy vehicles, such as Matchbox® and Hotwheel® toys (1:64 scale)
- Space for configuring multiple toys in rows and clusters
- Pencils or markers for drawing
- A ruler or something simple that is six inches in length
- A couple Duplo® and twice as many LEGO® blocks, if needed to support understanding, as the former is twice the size of the latter
After reading The Blue Whale, return to page pages six and seven*, which depict the length of the blue whale in comparison to a line of life-sized vehicles.
Show a scaled toy vehicle of one of the types suggested in the text, such as a bicycle or a van, choosing one with which the children are familiar in their everyday lives. Be sure that you have noted the scale for this particular toy and that all the toy vehicles are very similar in scale so that you can tell the kids how many of this one particular toy would be needed to be the same size of as its real world equivalent.
Tip: If the concept is too abstract for some in the group, start with a Duplo® block and two LEGO® blocks to show 1:2 scale.
Ask for volunteers to line up the vehicle models listed in the book as approximating the length of the blue whale. If you are using 1:64 scale, note that we would need to multiply the line by 64 to see how big the whale really is!
However, the room probably wouldn’t accommodate that (and the whale would certainly be uncomfortable out of water), so we will work with the scale instead.
Each child then fills her or his paper with the outline of the blue whale, filling the page width to accommodate the whale’s length. Sketch in each vehicle, starting at one end of the whale (the tail or head) and creating the line of vehicles set up as a visual model.
Re-read pages 14 and 15, where the tiny size of the whale’s eye (six inches) is discussed. Show the group what six inches looks like.
Remind everyone that their whale drawing is just 1/64th of a real blue whale’s size. How tiny would its eye look if they include it at that scale?
Tip: On the flip side of their drawings, kids can make a circle and divide it, pie-wise, into 64 pieces to see how tiny that would be.
Extension: Use the scale-sized toys to represent lengths and sizes of other large animals, such as a tiger (which can be up to nine feet long), a grizzly bear (up to 12 feet standing on hind legs), and an elephant (up to 15 feet high).
Activity 2: How Much Food Is 40 Tons? for ages 4 and up
Exploring how weights are reflected in different appearances of mass, specifically in foodstuffs, provides kids with concrete experience with weight as a useful piece of information for understanding their world (and the blue whale’s too!).
- 50 identical empty gallon containers, such as empty and cleaned milk jugs
- One gallon container, exactly like the 50, filled with water (cap on!)
- Food scale with clear weight display and with a flat bed for ready viewing of contents being weighed and a capacity of at least ten pounds
- A pound of dried beans or a pound of uncooked rice, in a clear plastic, virtually weightless container, such as a freezer bag
- Enough apples for everyone in the group to have one
After reading The Blue Whale, return to pages 22 and 23 where the amount of milk a baby blue whale consumes daily is discussed and depicted.
Display the 50 empty gallon containers for a visual reference to how much that amount looks like in reality. What would that volume weigh?
Ask a volunteer to come up and lift the gallon container filled with water (It weighs eight pounds, if the container is not adding discernible heft). Ask the volunteer for ideas about what else might feel this heavy. The others in the group can contribute suggestions that the volunteer can judge as accurate suppositions.
Place the water-filled jug on the scale and show how much it weighs.
Extension: If the arithmetic skills of those present support it, ask how they could figure out the weight of fifty such gallons. What would that weight be?
Re-read page 18 of The Blue Whale to refresh everyone’s memory of how much the food weighs that an adult whale eats daily. Explain that a ton, which is 2,000 pounds, would be the weight of five times as many full containers as you have empty ones [2,000÷(50 x 8)=5].
Ask for a volunteer to weigh the pound of beans or rice without showing the group what the amount is on the scale. Ask for everyone else to take guesses about how much the food weighs.
Once the right (or nearly right) estimation has been offered, ask what they think one of the apples might weigh. Check the estimations by weighing one of the apples so that all can view the scale as you do.
How much does the group think all the apples will weigh together? Once a variety of estimations have been offered, pile the apples on the scale together to find out the right answer.
Distribute the apples for immediate consumption or to save for lunch.
How much more food would the blue whale need today if she had eaten all the apples? Would it make even a small dent in her appetite?
*Pages are not numbered in this picture book. You can start with the title page as page one to count out the page listings in these activities.