Welcome to the DC Digital Lab!
Discovery Center is temporarily closed, but we wanted to be here for you in this challenging time. Our team has put together a collection of videos, experiments and activities that you can do at home. We are here to help you overcome boredom and learn a few things in the process! Simply click the image or video to start your at home discoveries.
The World of Whales, Part 1
Did you know that the Blue Whale is the largest animal that ever lived? It can grow to be longer than 90 feet and weigh as much as 24 elephants! Besides Blue Whales, there are approximately 90 different species of whales. This includes both toothed whales (think dolphins and porpoises) and baleen whales (think Blue and Humpback). While both groups are classified as “whales”, toothed and baleen whales are very different! In general, toothed whales, like Orcas and Dolphins, eat mainly fast swimming fish and squid. But the toothed whales much larger relatives, the Baleen whales, are filter feeders and eat mainly smaller fish, plankton, and copepods.
Whales live in a wide variety of environments, from very cold to very warm. Many whales migrate throughout the year to places that are more suitable for whatever it is they are doing at that time of year. In the winter they migrate to the tropics for raising young and in the summer, they migrate to Antarctica for feeding.
Unlike Humans and other land mammals, whales can’t leave the water if they start getting too cold or too hot. But overtime whales have evolved a thick layer of insulating blubber to protect themselves from these temperature extremes. Blubber is very different from the layer of fat that humans have to protect our internal organs and help keep us warm, it is much thicker and contains many more blood vessels. Blubber is a unique type of connective tissue that helps Marine Mammals regulate their body temperatures, so they don’t have to use as much energy to keep warm or cool down.
Given that whales are so fascinating and diverse, this week is part one of a multi-part digital lab series on whales. Explore the activities and videos below, and we will see you next week for more whale fun!
- 1 square piece of paper
- scissors (optional)
- pen & contrasting paper (optional)
- glue stick (optional)
- Take a square piece of paper and fold it across the diagonal. Open it up and fold it again in the opposite direction – you want that diagonal crease to go in both direction and be extra sharp.
- Open the square again. Take one edge and bring it to meet the diagonal central line. Repeat with the other side – you should now have a kite shape.
- Fold down the top point to meet the central line. Then fold in half.
- Take the long, thin tip and fold up at a right angle. Give it a sharp crease.
- Open the long, thin tip and fold into the opposite direction.
- Finally, make a small cut at the top of the tail and fold down.
- Draw your facial features and done!
Blubber Mitten – Insulating like a Whale
- 2 Cups of Shortening (or other fat)
- 4 Zippable Sandwich Bags
- 2 Bowls of Ice Water (with ice cubes)
- Fill one of the zipper bags about 1/3 full of shortening. Then, turn one of the remaining zipper bags inside out. Place it carefully inside the bag with the shortening so that you can zip the one bag to the other. This creates a “blubber mitten” for you to put your hand in.
- Repeat step one with the other two bags, but do not add the shortening!
- Next, place one hand in the “blubber mitten” and the other hand in the mitten without shortening. Place both hands in the ice water bowls. How cold does the water seem with the “blubber mitten” on? Do you think a nice layer of blubber would be great protection against cold?
Walrus, whales, and seals all have this wonderful layer of blubber, which help to keep them warm. Blubber is a unique type of connective tissue that helps Marine Mammals regulate their body temperatures, so they don’t have to use as much energy to keep warm or cool down. The blubber allows a gradual cooling or warming to occur between the internal organs and the ocean water, enabling the animal to lose or retain heat as needed!
Whale Migration Game: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/whales/main_page.html
Video Experiments and Activities
DIY Science PDF experiments
Virtual Critter Corner