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Echolocation Hunt

In this activity, students will create their own whale call and learn how Killer whales (Orca) communicate with each other.

Each Orca pod has its own collection of calls (dialect), which is almost like a language. They use sound to help them travel through murky water, to find prey and to communicate with others in their pod.

Killer whales can communicate using 3 different sounds:

  1. Clicks – sounds like running your fingers along a comb
  2. Whistles – just like human whistles
  3. Calls – unique to each family or pod

Human-made noise pollution from ships, propellers, ocean research and other activities has increased in the past years. These noises confuse the whales and other animals that rely on echolocation for communication or to locate food.

Objectives

  • Describe the ways in which Ocas communicate.

  • List a variety of organisms which live in the marine.

  • List and describe human impacts on ocean environments.

Materials

  • Large open area.

  • Blind folds

  • Orca Vocalizations (If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can download orca sounds here and save them to play later.)

Key Questions

  • How do whales communicate with each other?
  • What are some things that may affect whale communication?
  • What happens when there is noise pollution from ships, boats, radar etc.?

What To Do

  1. Have students listen to the Orca sounds to see if they can hear the difference between the different orca sounds.
  2. Separate the class into groups of 4-5 students. Each group represents a pod of whales.
  3. Have each group of students create their own whale call. It should be unique enough that it can be recognized when used.
  4. Assign one student from each group to be the whale caller. They will be standing on one side of the field.
  5. The other students will be standing in a line on the other end in their groups. These will be the different whale pods.
  6. Get the first student in each group to put on a blind fold. This student will have to find the calling “whale” on the other side.
  7. Before the students try finding their calling whale, mix up the whale caller so they are not in a straight line with their “pod”.
  8. Have the students call to their “pod”. The blind folded student will walk to their whale caller.
  9. Continue so that all students have a chance to find the whale caller.

Extensions

  • Noise pollution is something that affects whales from finding their pod. Try getting some students to create distracting noises and see if this affects how fast the whales find each other.

Other Resources

BC Cetaceans Network | Orca

Smithsonian Magazine | Understanding Orca Culture