The Truth About Killer Whales

Instructional Objectives
Background Material
Web Resources

Topic: Predator/Prey Relationships in Patagonia

Instructional Objectives: Students will:

1. Identify both male and female killer whales.

2. Construct a life size male killer whale.

3. Research killer whales. Identify habitat, range, food sources and behavior of killer whales in Patagonia and record information in student science journals.

Background Material:

The orca or killer whale, (Orcinus, orca-scientific name) is the largest of all dolphins. The Orca is a very large animal, males grow up to 30 feet long and females up to 25 feet. Other identification includes a dorsal fin up to six feet tall on males and three feet tall with a slight hook on females. The orca is recognized by a black back and a white belly. Orcas are found all over the world. They are found in cold water off Patagonia.

Orcas can weigh up to 12,000 pounds. Some of the Orcas have a saddle shape on the back which can be white or gray. Orcas are known to eat fish, seals, sea lions, birds, turtles and sting rays. Killer whales are cooperative hunters.

(Source: Redford, Kent H., and Eisenberg, John F., Mammals of the Neotropics, the Southern Cone, Volume 2, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1992; and Gardner, Robert, The Whale Watchers' Guide, Julian Messner, New York, 1984.)

Activity: Construct a Killer Whale

Target Grade Level: Middle Level Grades 5-9

Materials Needed:

- School gym or backyard (Best if inside)
- Student Science Journals
- 1 roll (12 feet by 100 feet) of black plastic covering
- 5 rolls (2 feet by 100 feet) of clear package strapping tape
- 1 roll (12 feet by 100 feet) of white plastic covering
- Several tape measures for students to use
- Scissors
- 1 household fan, rectangular with a 16 inch or larger blade or school gym fan
- 2 paper plates for killer whale eyes
- 1 roll of white plastic tape for teeth and mouth
- Construction plan for killer whales


1. Click the links labelled "a" and "b" below to view and print the construction plans for killer whales.

a. Construction plan #1
b. Construction plan #2

2. Record all steps taken to construct a killer whale in student science journals.

3. Review plan for construction and make sure all necessary materials are present. All taping must be from a continuous roll so that there are no air leaks by which air could

4. Unroll black and white (12 foot by 100 foot) plastic covering. Have students measure and cut at 30 foot lengths, one piece from each roll. Then cut the 30 foot piece in half so that two 6 foot by 30 foot pieces remain, one will be black and one white. Save remaining pieces for tail and fins. Tape black and white sections together as per construction map. Be sure to round out head and tail sections by folding plastic ends into flaps to give the killer whale a torpedo shape.

5. Use scissors to cut out two, 6 foot by 3 foot dorsal fins which will then be taped together on three sides, leaving one side to attach to opening on killer whale (on top) to allow air to enter. This should be done on all fins and tail, and two, 3 foot by 2 foot pectoral fins (on side) with remaining black plastic as per downloaded construction map below. Continue by cutting two tail sections, 3 foot by 2 foot per construction map. Assemble all three fins and tail section with strapping tape. Use strapping tape to attach dorsal fin, two pectoral fins and tail to the body of the killer whale. Continue by cutting 1 saddle shape out of the remaining white plastic piece, 4 foot by 5 foot.

6. Once the entire whale is sealed, attach white saddle shaped plastic piece behind the dorsal fin on the top of the killer whale. Cut pieces of white plastic tape to form mouth and teeth of killer whale. Cut paper plates in the shape of eyes and attach. Following this, use remaining black plastic to cut a 2 foot hole near the rear of the killer whale as per construction map and build and attach a small 2 foot diameter tunnel 4 feet long and attach to the fan. Inflate the whale by turning on the fan and see that all fins and the tail inflate.

7. Research killer whales, record information in student science journals and be prepared to present research at the classroom International Patagonian Wildlife Conference (See lesson on PBS International Patagonian Wildlife Conference).

Evaluation/Alternative Assessment:

-Observe the construction and finished product and create a rubric for the project which will assess students work habits, quality of work and adherance to construction instructions.
-Present the research on killer whales at a Patagonian Wildlife Conference.(See lesson on PBS International Patagonian Wildlife Conference)
-Students will reflect on the size and construction of a killer whale in Student Science Journals along with the data collected in their research.

Elementary Extension:

Construct a killer whale from a black and white roll of bulletin board paper. Killer whale should be 30 feet long, and have a 6 foot dorsal fin. This will be a two dimensional model. Mouth and teeth can be drawn on black paper with chalk. Find a story about killer whales and read to the class.

High School Extension:

Track the migration patterns of killer whales in Patagonia and compare and contrast them to the pods of killer whales in the Northwest Pacific Coast of Washington State, British Columbia and Alaska. Research web sites for research being conducted on killer whales.

Web Resources:

Sea World: Killer Whales

Vancouver Aquarium

Kids Planet: Killer Whale

National Parks Conservation Association: Killer Whales

Alaksa Fisheries Science Center: Killer Whales

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