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La Jolla, California

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Posted on Apr 06, 2015

An Inquiry into the Plight of the Sea Lion in San Diego

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In recent weeks, the children in Prekindergarten Room 6 have been discussing the injured and sick sea lions they have seen on the beaches of La Jolla. The children wondered why this was happening. They had heard on the news that it was connected to the lack of fish available for the sea lions to eat. As part of our discussion, the children asked many questions:

“Are sea lions washing up on the beach hungry? If so, then why?”

“Is the ocean polluted? If the ocean is polluted can scientists clean it with filters like they do with our drinking water?”

“Are there no more fish for the sea lions to eat?”

During Morning Exploration, the children created drawings in their journals of sea lions, illustrating their theories on ways we may be able to help. They also used clay to tell stories about what they had seen. Sketch descriptions:

Elle: My seal is sad because he doesn’t have any food. He is on the beach and only had one fish.

Simon: Here I am under water with a ziplock bag catching fish. I want the seal to smell the fish I caught in my bag and he follow me. I will feed him when I get to shore.

Laird: I want to go on my surf board and take the seals with me. When I get to the beach, I will feed them a bucket of fish that I bought from the store.

Mia: I cannot swim too well. I haven’t had lessons in a long time. Also, I do not know how to fish. But I can go to the store with my mom and buy some fish. Good tasty fish. Then I will drop the fish in the water on a boat to the hungry seals. I will also leave some on the beach in case they are too tired to swim far away.

Kaia: Here I am in the water and I am trying to get the daddy seal to the baby seal with a bag of fish.

The teachers invited researchers Michael Tift of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Sea World team member who works directly with the rescued sea lions, to visit the classroom. Mr. Tift explained that the temperature of the ocean is rising. Because of this, the fish and squid that the sea lions eat dive really deep to get to cooler water. The sea lions cannot always dive that deep, so they have to spend more time looking for food. The class learned that most of the stranded sea lions are very young pups. Because the mothers are having a difficult time finding food, some of them are not able to return to feed their pups. The researchers addressed the children’s questions about the sea lion situation, and discussed other marine mammals and their research on ocean life in La Jolla. The researchers also dressed a student as a sea lion in order to explain anatomy, adaptions, and basic natural history.

The children asked if pollution is affecting the ocean and shared ideas about what might be done, such as fitering water that drains into the ocean or using chemicals to treat ocean water. Mr. Tift thought there were some very good ideas. He explained that the ocean will take care of itself if it is left alone, but because people pollute it, the ocean gets sick. If the ocean gets sick, the animals will often get sick as well.

Lynn Babiarz Prekindergarten Teacher
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