Vanishing Vaquita in the Sea of Cortez

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Students will be able to explain that an animal with very specific environmental needs will have more difficulty adapting to a changing environment.

Big Idea

Animals that aren't adaptable are less likely to survive changes in their environment.


10 minutes

I start this lesson by asking students to think silently and then respond to these questions about cetaeceans .  I read each question to them aloud and make certain they understand what is being asked.  Then I give them about 15 minutes to work on them.  I monitor their progress and give assistance where needed by asking guiding questions initiate the writing process.  Not all students will finish the questions and that is completely acceptable.  They may also answer them in any order they wish.  The important part of the process is that they are thinking about the larger concepts in third grade science so that they can then apply them to specific situations, in this case, the plight of the critically endangered vaquita.

These are the engagement questions.  I like to project them using either a printed page and my document camera or my projector.  


As a simple organizational tool, I do have students make sure to number the questions, as they answer them.  When they pre-number their papers they constrain themselves with both the number of lines and the idea that they must answer in order.

I believe that these opening discussions are one of the most important components in developing students ability to engage in meaningful scientific discourse.




45 minutes

The vaquita (marine mammal) is an example of an animal that is not adapting to a changing environment and will probably become extinct.  In today's reading for science activity, students will read expository text and answer critical thinking questions about the vaquita.  Some of my students read this alone or with a partner and complete all the questions, while others are assigned a section of text or work with me in a small group.  


This NOAA article about vaquita, this National Geographic article or this simpler WorldWildlife article. are alternative or additional passages that can be used to enrich or scaffold for different reading levels.