Sunday, October 26, 2014

SeaTurtle Time - Real World Data in the Classroom

Recently I had the opportunity to go to the NSTA regional conference in Richmond, Va. There I met up with Megan from the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  Fort Fisher is a beautiful aquarium near Wilmington, NC.  Coincidentally I once attended a wedding at the sister site near Nags Head when my children were little.  I have fond memories of the boys at the shark tank during cocktail hour. They were mesmerized by the sharks, the turtles and the touch tank.

I attended her session that was entitled Sea Turtles.
Now, some of you who have followed my blog know about my dear turtle Squirtle.  Squirtle is an aquatic turtle and not a sea turtle - he lives in our tank in the classroom and is a beloved classroom pet.

In her session she introduced us to her beloved turtle passion.  You see, at this aquarium they monitor sea turtles - loggerhead, green sea turtles and  leatherback.  Megan has developed an AMAZING sea turtle curriculum that is FREE for teachers. I highly recommend that you check it out at .  On her website you will find lesson plans, video links and even virtual lessons.  Some examples of the lesson plans include:

Sea Turtle Hatchling - the kids will create a turtle hatchling out of rocks. Then they will learn how to measure the hatchling like a real turtle scientist. I can't wait to do this with my kids.  I have bought the rocks and have the glue guns ready to go! They will love this.

                                         Another really cool lesson is You make the Crawl. 
In this lesson the kids make tracks in salt dough to represent the tracks the Sea Turtles take when building their nests.  I think this is great because the children get to create it for others to guess what it is.

She also showed us a real sea turtle shell and taught us about the sea turtle's form and function.

This website has so many things on it that you can use all year!  The part I took home an implemented the very next day was the tracking of a hatchling over the course of a year.

So,this already is enough to get me excited! What a great resource of lessons that are developed in an engaging, real world context. But the next part is what really got me out of my seat....

Every year the aquarium keeps two hatchlings left over from the bottom of the nest.  These turtles become "mascots' for a year.  The scientists research and study their growth and development.  After a year at the aquarium, they are released into the ocean as a yearling.

While they are at the aquarium, however, your students can "adopt" them.  Yes, adopt them!!! (virtually, of course)  In the lesson From Hatchling to Yearling you can find out how to adopt either Turtle A or Turtle B and observe their growth all year long.  At the aquarium the scientists measure the hatchlings each Wednesday and then Megan writes a blog each Thursday.  The kids will see how their turtle is growing and they will learn about what's going on at the aquarium.  For instance, this week we learned about Junebug a three flipper sea turtle.  They were so excited to see the infrared photos from the nighttime journey!

In my class, we adopted Turtle A.  As a class we brainstormed names for the turtle - which brought up a we know if it is a girl or a boy?  We emailed Megan who answered us quickly and described that it takes years to figure out the sex of the turtle (male turtles have longer tails eventually than female). While Megan voted for the name Rosie, the children eventually chose Chris.

We set up a data station in the room where we can track the turtle's growth.  I printed off a few pictures from the website and then created two graphs for data collection - a bar graph for length and a line graph for mass.

In Virginia we need to learn to create two types of graphs in math and in science. They understand bar graphs pretty easily, but line graphs are another matter.  I have also noticed that once they learn how to create the graph, they may not understand how to analyze and interpret it.  Why? Perhaps because we don't put it in a real world context. That is why when I saw this I jumped on it!  I can not wait to see where this will lead us this year.

On another note, check out the cute turtle we made out of a pumpkin!



  1. Leslie, thank you so much for sharing our curriculum. I'm so glad you're excited to use it! I can't wait to see what your students come up with this year. Thanks again!

  2. I am so happy you are finding this curriculum valuable. Thank you for sharing it!