Every year our grade level does an ocean unit, and every year we get to talk about whales. One thing I have done for a long time is actually measure the lengths of six whales. The students always love this lesson and it gives them a good idea on how long this great giant creatures actually are.
One change I made this year is the tools we use to measure. Up until this year I always had the kids use ruler to measure the whale lengths, and to measure a 100ft. blue whale length with a ruler can be a very daunting task for my kiddos. But this year, with the implementation of Common Core, we used tools appropriate for measuring these lengths. Two units I used to help get my students ready to use these measuring tools, were Amy Lemons' I Can Measure! unit, and Tracy Smith's Measuring Length unit.
In science we learned about whales using a PowerPoint I had created, and then graphed the lengths of 6 specific whales: blue whale, orca whale, beluga whale, sperm whale, right whale, and humpback whale.
We used our school gym to measure the whale lengths because obviously our classroom was just a wee too tiny (like who has a gigantic classroom anyway:). Students brought in tape measures from home because they felt these were the best tool to measure these great lengths. I broke the kids up into 6 groups to measure 6 different whales. The used the information from their graphs to know how much length to measure.
I was proud when I saw this. One of my groups discovered that their tape measure ended at 16 ft so they used a yard stick to continue measuring from that point on the tape measure!
After the kids measured the lengths, I then gave each groups different colored crepe paper to roll out the length measured. That crepe paper represented the whale lengths. I then hang the crepe paper in the hallway for all to see how long the whales are. I always have this up for Open House every year and everyone loves to see how long these wondrous whales really are!