Teaching Preschool Students about Seals
Seal facts for preschoolers should be kept simple and relatable. Teach them about where the animals live, what they eat, and what they look like.
- Thirty-five difference species of seals are divided into three different families.
- True seals have no protruding ears. Their hind flippers help them in the water, but only drag behind them when on land. They cannot lift themselves up on their foreflippers. The foreflippers are used for steering as they move their hind sections sideways to propel through the water. The Ringed seal is the smallest. The Southern elephant seal is the largest. Other true seals are Hooded, Bearded, Gray, Ribbon, Leopard, Weddell, Crabeater, Monk, Ross, Harp, Spotted, Harbor, Caspian, Ringed, and Baikal.
- Eared seals are the ones most commonly found in zoos. They have ears that actually protrude from the body. They can use their hind flippers to help them both in the water and on land. Their front flippers provide the most power as they swim. Males are always quite larger than their female counterparts. These include sea lions and fur seals. Sea lions have shorter fur than fur seals.
- Walruses are seals found in the Arctic. They have long tusks, which are actually their canine teeth. They also have beards and significantly less body hair.
- Their scientific name is "pinnipeds" which means "feather-foot." This comes from the Latin "pinna" which means "feather or wing" and "pedis" which means "foot."
- They are able to hear quite well, whether or not they have ears. Underwater, their hearing is amplified. It is believed that they use a form of sonar to help them locate food.
- Whiskers are often used like radar to help locate food, as well. They can sense a shift in the water, thus giving them a clue as to the direction in which to swim for it.
- Eyes do not see in color, but they are sensitive to aquatic colors.
- Noses automatically close as soon as they go underwater. They open again when the seal surfaces. Babies can stay underwater for about fifteen minutes and adults can stay under for thirty. They also sleep underwater, able to surface for breathing without waking up.
- They can weigh from one to three tons and can be up to ten to twenty feet in length.
- Mothers and pups rely on their sense of smell to identify each other.
- The majority of the world's population can be found in Antarctica, due to fewer predators like humans and polar bears. They can also be found in other cool regions of the world, such as the Arctic. Many local zoos house them, as well.
- Weddell seals in Antarctica are the one species that prefers to sleep on ice and snow, instead of rock and open areas.
- Many can be found on ice floes, floating in the ocean.
Predator and Prey:
- They like to feed on other animals found in the water, such as fish, krill, and squid. They may also feed on microplankton and plankton.
- There is one species that eats penguins.
- Leopard seals sometimes feed on smaller Crabeater seals.
- They are often hunted and eaten by orcas and polar bears.
- Focus on the letter "s" and its sound. Brainstorm other words that being with "s" and make lists or booklets.
- Practice writing the letter "S" for handwriting practice.
- Make up stories about seals for creative writing skills by using pictures for inspiration.
- Use plastic replicas of seals as manipulatives for counting or simple addition problems.
- Make up story problems, using seals.
- Create an arctic environment. Freeze water overnight in various sizes of containers. Put them into a large bin to create an arctic environment.
- Discuss Arctic and Antarctic habitats. Compare and contrast them to other habitats and biomes.
- Discuss the Eskimos, who live in a habitat shared by seals.
- Seals are often associated with the circus. Talk about how circus life would be different from the real world.
- Create a mural of an Arctic habitat, including seals and other creatures who live with them
- Brainstorm different kinds of collage materials that could be used to create furry seals.
- Create an informative coloring book of different kinds of seals.
- Make a mask out of a paper plate. Also make masks of other Arctic creatures. Put on a play or skit.
- Make a baby seal out of a sock.
Read books at circle time about seals. Make them available to children to peruse at their leisure throughout the day. The following are just a few recommendations.
Hewitt, Joan. A Harbor Seal Grows Up. Carolrhoda Books, 2001. - Follow the life cycle of a seal from birth through adulthood.
Hoff, Syd. Sammy the Seal. Harper & Row, 1959. - This is a fictional series about a seal who escapes from the zoo. They are fun to read aloud.
Lang, Aubrey. Baby Seal. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2004. - This book also uses great photographs and simple text for young children about the seal's life cycle.
Kalman, Bobbie. Seals and Sea Lions (The Living Ocean). Crabtree Publishing, 2005. - This book is geared toward older children but is full of useful information and has great pictures. Adapt the text as necessary for sharing seal facts for preschoolers.
"Eared Seals" Encyclopedia of Earth http://www.eoearth.org/article/Eared_Seals
"Ocean Living Facts: Seals and Sea Lions." Smithsonian National Zoological Park.http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/OceanLiving/Facts/default.cfm
"Seals". About Antarctica. http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/downey/project/seals.html
"Seals (Animals)". Encyclopedia.com http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Seals_%28Animals%29.aspx
"Seals: Wildlife of Anarctica." Antarctic Connection http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/wildlife/seals/index.shtml
"True Seals". Encyclopedia of Earth. http://www.eoearth.org/article/True_seals
"Walruses" Encyclopedia of Earth. http://www.eoearth.org/article/Walrus?topic=49540