Whale Day

For the past 24 years I have traveled to North Hudson Elementary in Hudson, Wisconsin for a very special experience. The 4th grade teachers have developed a thematic unit on the oceans that runs from February to May. All of their reading, science, language arts is based upon oceans. One day a year, I have had the honor of teaching an entire day about the oceans: Ocean Communities, Squid dissection, Sand Lab, and Shell Lab.

Student drawing of a squid

Squid Dissection

Various aspects of squid anatomy were observed and recorded.
The chromatophores allow the squid to change color. This photo was taken by a student through a 30x microscope.
Student photo of a squid beak (30x microscope)
Student photo of a sucker disk on a squid tentacle (30x)

Marine Communities

Jeanette Dickinson, a visual artist, worked with students to create a marine communities mural.

Marine science artists at work
Open Ocean Community

Sand Lab

Learning about the uniqueness of sands from around the world

Sand scientists at work

Shell Lab

Using a scientist’s eye to identify different species
Intense investigations
Is is it an abalone or a limpet?

After doing research projects, students create three dimensional ocean creatures.

viperfish from the Abyss Community
Deck the halls with ocean life.

It is fulfilling to see the Oceanography project has maintained support and grown over the years. This integrated unit has always been close to my heart. The study has generated student enthusiasm; developed learners’ understanding of so many related concepts and processes; and provided an immensely rich and integrated learning experience for every child.
Thank you 4th Grade teachers at North Hudson (Paula Feyereisen, Jessica McQuade, Heather Mathews, and Deborah Smith) for carrying on this invaluable study, especially in the light of frequent obstacles. I truly admire what you do on a daily basis.

Vicki Donatell, retired 4th grade teacher at North Hudson

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4 Responses to Whale Day

  1. Linda says:

    So many layers of learning, observation, creation, expression through writing, collaboration and reasearch! The final results show all they’ve accomplished there on the wall, sharing their newfound knowledge with astounded viewers.

  2. barbara goodman-fischtrom says:

    How inspiring to see the enthusiasm of the children! Wonderful work

  3. Grace Sheeky says:

    I still open your Whale book periodically. Not 24 years worth. Guessing may be 10 – 15.

    You are an educator extraordinaire. Thank you.


  4. Mary Saughter says:

    How exciting an rewarding for you this must be, being a part of this project for 24 yrs.
    Thanks so much for sharing such an innovative and educational concept.


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