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Project title or topic of activity

Pinniped Station

Author(s): Kelly Schaff

Date: Fall 1999


Summary of Activity
50-100 words

I would like to incorporate several different activities that can be combined to make up a station about pinnipeds. I plan to use a variety of pictures of different pinnipeds to show differences between seals, sea lions, and walruses. I plan to have a food chain puzzle for the children to piece together by identifying how pinnipeds fit into the food web. I would also like to incorporate a game which demonstrates the dangers faced by pinnipeds.


Grade levels

This activity is targeted towards grades 3rd through 5th.

General description or introduction
The scientific principles that the activity is founded on.

The activity is based on the facts about the physical characteristics of pinnipeds, where they fit into the food web, and what dangers pinnipeds face.

Background information

Pinnipeds are marine mammals that include seals, sea lions, and walruses. They belong to the order Pinnipedia which means "fin-footed" in Latin. Unlike dolphins and whales, they live both on land and in the water. Pinnipeds are found in mostly cold water oceans all over the world. They have an insulation called blubber to keep them warm. Seals can be distinguished from sea lions in that seals have no ear flaps, and they can not rotate their hind feet. Walruses can be identified by two large protruding tusks.

Pinnipeds use their good senses, including their whiskers and large eyes in order to find food. They have sharp teeth to tear food, which they swallow whole. Both seals and sea lions are preyed upon by killer whales and sharks. They both prey upon a variety of animals including fish, squid, and octopus. Walruses use their tusks to eat clams, mussels, and snails, but many fish also. The main predators of walruses are killer whales and polar bears.

Pinnipeds are thought to have descended from a bear-like or otter-like creature, millions of years ago. The streamlined shape of a pinniped's body helps it to quickly and easily move through the water. Pinnipeds have a high content of oxygen in their blood which enables them to go with out air for long periods of time. Seals and sea lions are known to dive 1600 feet under water and hold their breathe for up to 2 hours.

There are quite a few factors that pose threats to the existance of pinnipeds. People hunts baby seals for their fur, by beating them with a club. Accidents such as oil spills contaminate the environment of pinnipeds. Entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris is another threat that pinnipeds face. However, there are many organizations that focus on the conservation of pinniped species.

Game questions:
1. What are some characteristics of mammals? - warm-blooded, mammary glands, have fur, live birth, etc
2. How are seals differnt from sea lions? - see informaiton above
3. What does Pinnipedia mean? - fin-footed
4. How many species of pinnipeds are there? - 33
5. What do pinnipeds do on land? - mate, rest, give birth, molt
6. How do pinnipeds keep warm? - blubber
7. Name a type of seal. - leopard, monk, elephant, harbour, spotted, Baikal, harp, fur, etc.
8. What seal recently became extinct? - Caribbean monk seal
9. Why do people hunt seals? - fur and blubber
10. What does a walrus use its tusk for? - eating and protection

Game cards:
1. There was an oil spill in your ocean. Move back 2 spaces.
2. You were eaten by a shark, return to the beginning.
3. A new law was passed against hunting of pinnipeds. Move up 2 spaces.
4. You got caught in a fishing net. Move back one space.
5. You had a dangerous encounter with a polar bear. Move back one space.
6. Overfishing has depleted your food source. Move back 2 spaces.

Credit for the activity

My idea has been modified from a lesson plan on the Sea World web site. The web address is

Estimated time to do the activity


Goals of Activity:

Goal A
To familiarize students with basic knowledge of pinnipeds and differences between them

Goal B
To let the students determine where the pinnipeds belong in a food web

Goal C
To make students aware of the dangers that pinnipeds face

Goal D
{Goal D}


National Science Education Standards. (NSES)

Two content standards that this lesson plan covers:

Standard 1
All plants and animals have distinct body structures that aid in the organisms growth, survival, and reproduction.

Standard 2
The behavior of an organism is related to its environment. When the environment changes, some animals survive, while others die or change environments.


Materials Needed

  • Pictures of seals, sea lions, and walruses
  • Picture magnets of different animals that belong in the pinnipeds' food chain
  • Monopoly-style board game which depicts the dangers faced by pinnipeds


No preparation is really needed as the posters, the puzzle, and the game will already be made.

Step-by-Step Procedure for the Activity

The station is created for groups of no more than ten (preferrably 6-8). The teacher should begin by asking the students questions to determine their prior knowledge of information. The answers to the questions are included in the background information.

"What is a pinniped?"
"What do you know about seals, sea lions, and walruses?"
"Has anyone ever seen a pinniped? Where and what type?
What did you notice about them?"
"Where are they found?"

Next, the posters should be presented. At this time, the types of pinnipeds should be introduced to the students, as well as the ways in which they are different. Examples of seals, sea lions, and walruses will be presented through the different pictures on the posters. All basic information about pinnipeds should be presented at this time, as well as facts that will hold the interest of the students. The food web puzzle should be presented next. The students' knowledge of food webs should be tested first by a series of questions.

"What is a food web?
What does it show?"

Each student will be given a different animal magnet which they will place on the blackboard. Together, the students should decide how all of the animals fit into the pinniped food web by drawing lines to connect them. The teacher should guide the students towards the correct answers. After the puzzle, the board game should be presented. The rules of the game are as follows:

- Divide the group into two teams. Each team is supposed to represent a baby seal.
- Each team will take turns answering questions about pinnipeds, including information that they acquired earlier in the session.
- When a team answers a question correctly, they are able to pick an obstacle card. This card will instruct the team to move forward a certain number of spaces, or move backward because of an obstacle that they might encounter as a baby seal.
- The game continues until a team wins by reaching the last space on the board. After the game, the conclusion questions should be discussed. To conclude the station, the teacher should instruct the students to create a food web with themselves as the center.

Images, work sheets, additional web pages

{none available}

Items for discussion or conclusion

1st question

What can be done to increase the survival rate of pinnipeds?

2nd question
Why is it important to help save all of the animals involved in the food web?

3rd question
{Question 3}

4th question
{Question 4}


Predation is a natural and necessary occurance in all food webs. It helps to keep the ecosystem balanced. However, hunting and pollution need to be regulated in order to maintain pinniped populations. A decrease in pinnipeds populations would effect the entire marine ecosystem, because it would make an impact on every organism in a the pinnipeds' food web.

Beyond the Activity
Further activities which relate to and extend the complexity of the experiment.

Students can further their understanding of food webs by creating a web which includes humans. The students will be asked to create their own human food web, by using the information they learned about food webs in the station. This will force them to think about where they belong in the food web.

Web Resources
A web address with information on the topic of the activity.

Web Address

Additional References

Marine Biology, Castro