STEM Learning Module

Cetacean Connections

Dolphins in Hawaii
Ocean Exploration Trust

Cetacean Connections is a 3-day hybrid learning curriculum where students will follow a team of National Geographic Explorers aboard E/V Nautilus to study dolphins in Hawai’i. Through video lessons and actionable activities, students will develop their own explorer skills and practice scientific inquiry.

Marine mammals are found in every ocean, and the Main Hawaiian Islands are home to over 20 species. Cetaceans, or dolphins and whales, are important parts of the marine ecosystem. Studying dolphin sounds and communication is a focus for researchers to better understand these species, especially as threats to the ocean like noise pollution grow. In this 3-day lesson plan funded by the National Geographic Society inn partnership with the Ocean Exploration Trust and produced by The Conservationist Collective, students will learn how to be Explorers and cultivate skills like observation, data collection, and scientific inquiry. Students will also get a chance to study animal behavior using footage from Nautilus expeditions, and learn how research is conducted in the field.

Pacing: 3 class periods (45 minutes each)

Materials: Printed activity worksheets, computer access and/or marine mammal guide to lead background research, a stopwatch/timer, writing utensil

Objectives & learning outcomes

The student will explore dolphin and whale characteristics and learn how they use the underwater soundscape through the lens of an expedition, and practice scientific skills needed to lead marine mammal research.

Students will learn:

  • How to collect background information on a marine mammal species
  • Make observations about the natural world
  • Use tools to study animal behavior
  • Practice scientific inquiry

Grade level

Grade level

Time & materials

Time & materials
Scale: one of three
Prep time and materials cost minimal, may require printing.



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