Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures

Using Ocean Adventures in the Classroom
A Word from Jean-Michel Cousteau
Educator Guide to Voyage to Kure
Educator Guide to Sharks at Risk
Educator Guide to The Gray Whale Obstacle Course
Educator Guide to America's Underwater Treasures
Educator Guide to Return to the Amazon
Educator Guide to Sea Ghosts
Educator Guide to Call of the Killer Whale
The Watershed Quest
Tips for Using Science Multimedia
Educator Web Links
Download Library
Outreach Partners


Call of the Killer Whale Viewing Guide

"Everywhere on the planet, we are connected to the ocean. We have the opportunity to do what needs to be done to protect our life support system and improve the quality of life, not just for the marine environment, the marine mammals, the orcas, but for ourselves. This is a choice we have. If we protect the ocean, we protect ourselves."

- Jean-Michel Cousteau

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In this two-hour program, Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team of explorers travel to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres as they seek out killer whales in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They discover that people and orcas share surprising similarities, even similar needs, and they relate their findings to the captivity and release of Keiko, from Free Willy fame, who captured the world's imagination and whose survival depended on pioneering efforts to reintroduce Keiko into the wild. The team also learns how some of the threats to killer whales now intersect with human lives. During the expedition, intriguing detours arise, leading to critical examinations of our environment, of the food on our dinner tables, even of our own health.

watch video
Two hours total; viewing it in shorter segments is recommended.

Students will be able to

  • identify adaptations of marine mammals.
  • compare and contrast the behavioral adaptations of different groups of orcas.
  • explain the social structure of orca groups.
  • make connections between changes in the behavior of orcas and a decline in their prey.
  • identify environmental hazards that have affected orcas and their ecosystems.


Call of the Killer Whale

"Orcas Hunting" video

"Same Species, Different Habits" article

National Science Education Standards, Science Content Standards: Grades 5-8

Grades 5-8
Life Science --
Content Standard C:
Populations and Ecosystems
Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives --
Content Standard F:
Populations, Resources and Environments
Natural Hazards
Science and Technology in Society

Grades 9-12
Life Science --
Content Standard C:
Biological Evolution
The Interdependence of Organisms
The Behavior of Organisms

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives --
Content Standard F:
Environmental Quality
Natural and Human-Induced Hazards
Science and Technology in Local, National and Global Challenges

Ocean Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts
Essential Principle #5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
Essential Principle #6: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.


  • Study the characteristics and adaptations of marine mammals. What special adaptations do they have for living in the ocean? How are they similar to humans and how are they different?
  • The orca is well-known by the name "killer whale." Research how this name originated.
  • Look up the definition of "culture" from three or four different sources. Discuss what it means and list some examples of culture.
  • Read the Call of the Killer Whale Glossary sheet and write down any unfamiliar words.


  • Refer to the viewing questions that go with each segment of Call of the Killer Whale. Each question is labeled with a theme: Adaptations, Ecosystems, Human Impact or General. A segment can be viewed alone or combined with other segments.
  • Listen for the vocabulary words you wrote down and try to discover their meaning.


  • Review Call of the Killer Whale Glossary sheet and any new vocabulary words learned.
  • Draw a family tree of your family as if you were an orca pod from the Pacific Northwest. (Remember, children remain in pods with their mothers.) Who is the matriarch? How is this family tree different? Which family members would be living with a different pod?
  • Pretend you are an orca and write a journal entry about your day. What did you do? What do you communicate about with the other members of your pod? What do you notice about your environment?
  • Listen to calls of orcas in the Pacific Northwest. What do you think they are communicating? You can listen to orca calls on the following websites:
  • Discuss with friends or family your thoughts about keeping orcas in captivity.
  • Next time you visit the grocery store or eat at a restaurant, see if they have salmon for sale. Are you able to find out what kind of salmon it is? Where it came from? If it is wild or farmed?
  • Complete the activities "Parasite Perils" and "Orca United Nations."

Andrea Swensrud is the KQED Education Network Project Supervisor for Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. She has a master of arts in teaching and has taught and managed marine science education programs. KQED Education Network uses the power of KQED Public Broadcasting to inspire learning by providing projects for youth and curriculum materials and professional development for teachers, child-care providers and families.

Jean‑Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures is produced by KQED Public Broadcasting and the Ocean Futures Society. The corporate sponsor is the Dow Chemical Company. Additional major support comes from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, KQED Campaign for the Future and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.