Lab Report: Why Whales Don't Have Legs

Project Description
Why Whales Don't Have Legs is a well known activity with high school and middle school marine biology teachers. I do not get credit for creating the project, but I did modify it to fit my population.

In a nutshell, latex gloves are used to represent a mammal with legs. Latex gloves with fingers tied off represent a marine mammal without legs. Water is put into 3 different gloves; the temperature of the water is recorded. The #1 glove has 5 legs, glove #2 has all legs tied off, and glove #3 has legs tied off and is in a Styrofoam cup symbolizing blubber on a mammal without legs.

The question is will the body temperature of a mammal with legs cool off more quickly than a mammal without legs or a mammal without legs and with blubber when placed in ice water for 5, 10, and 15 minutes. The temperature of the water inside the gloves is recorded for each time frame. A line graph shows the rate of temperature change. This activity allows for development of several hypotheses, analysis of data, etc. And stimulates many "why" questions. Class discussion can be rich with ideas and further hypotheses and new experiments.

Rubric Information
Rubric TitleWhy Whales Don't Have Legs
Rubric ID82118
Teacher NameLab Report: Why Whales Don't Have Legs
SchoolSunridge Learning Center

Project Includes
StandardsNS.5-8.1: Science As Inquiry
NS.5-8.2: Physical Science
NS.5-8.3: Life Science
Teacher TipsI have tested the project on my class of gifted 3rd graders and it went well. There are still bugs to work out with the Why Whales don't have legs activity, but all in all it was a fun, messy, data collecting, data analyzing, lab write up experiment! The only downfall is that there is no control.

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