Activity #3: Sea Otter Census

Student Resource: Otter History
Otter History


1. Read Student Resource #1: Otter History
Share the Students Resource: Otter History with students along with any other of the following resources, if appropriate.



2. Create Otter History Timeline
Divide students into small groups and assign one of the following periods of history to each group. Each group should research the resources listed in Step 1 to create an illustrated timeline of their period of otter history. Timelines should be constructed on large paper and posted on the classroom walls. Illustrations can include photographs, original artwork, 3-dimensional dioramas and/or human tableaus or imaginary diaries, etc. depending upon student ability level and availability of materials.

  • Pre-1740
  • 1740 – 1830
  • 1830 – 1900
  • 1900 – 1950
  • 1950 – the present

3. Timeline Presentations
Give 1-2 classroom periods to students' presentations of their timelines and then discuss:

  • How have human beings and otters interacted over the centuries?
  • How can students explain the variety of human behavior toward otters?
  • What do they think the future holds for otter/human interactions? Why?
keystone predators of Glacier Bay
Keystone Predators of Glacier Bay

4. Read Student Resource #2: Keystone Predators of Glacier Bay and #3: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Share the Student Resource #2: Keystone Predators of Glacier Bay and #3: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve with students and give them time to read the information on the park and review the information on otter effects on marine ecosystems.


5. Student Debate
Hold a brief debate with the entire class on their hopes and fears for the future of Glacier Bay and its otters. Discuss:

  • Predict the future if the National Park Service (NPS) continues it management focus?
  • If there is a change in restrictions on commercial fishing and/or boating regulations in Glacier Bay how might this affect things?
  • If visitation in Glacier Bay were to increase two-fold what affect might this have.
  • If otters completely decimated the urchin population in the Bay, what might happen to everything else?

6. The Science Text
Invite student teams to collaborate on an entry for a science text for younger students about the sea otters of Glacier Bay. What do they think must be included? What would catch the interest of their intended audience? How can they coax their readers into thinking about the otters' future?

Give students some examples of science texts for younger grades to help them determine:

  • the kinds of words and the sentence structure that are typically used; how long are the sentences; are they generally written in the passive or active voice; are the words fairly simple
  • how information is presented — bulleted data, pictures with captions, diagrams, special inserts with interesting facts, word definitions
  • the typical length of paragraphs

Now, challenge them to work together to create their textbook entry on Glacier Bay's sea otters. Include questions to help their audience think about the information and the otters' future. For the teacher they must include answers to the questions and predictions about what might happen to Glacier Bay's otters over time.


8. Extension:
(recommended for more advanced students)
While Glacier Bay's sea otter population has boomed in the past 10 years, sea otters along the Aleutians in Alaska have suffered great losses in population. Students will use online resources to discover some of the reasons why this has occurred.



Last updated: April 14, 2015

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