Homeschooling Resources for Learning About Dolphins

Learning About Dolphins
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What Are Dolphins?

Dolphins are beautiful, playful creatures that are delightful to watch. Although they live in the ocean, dolphins aren't fish. Like whales, they are mammals. They are warm-blooded, breathe air through their lungs, and give birth to live young, which drinks its mother's milk, just like mammals that live on land. 

Dolphins breathe through a blowhole located on the top of their heads. They must come to the water's surface to breathe air out and take in fresh air. How often they do this depends on how active they are. Dolphins can stay underwater up to 15 minutes without coming to the surface for air!

Most dolphins give birth to one (sometimes two) babies about every three years. The dolphin baby, who is born after a 12-month gestation period, is called a calf. Female dolphins are cows and males are bulls. The calf drinks its mother's milk for up to 18 months.

Sometimes another dolphin stays nearby to help with the birth. Although it is occasionally a male dolphin, it is most often a female and either gender is referred to as the "auntie."

The auntie is the only other dolphin the mother will allow around her baby for awhile. 

Dolphins are often confused with porpoises. Although they are similar in appearance, they are not the same animal. Porpoises are smaller with smaller heads and shorter snouts. They are also more shy than dolphins and typically don't swim as close to the surface of the water.

There are over 30 species of dolphin. The bottlenose dolphin is probably the most popular and easily-recognizable species. The killer whale, or orca, is also a member of the dolphin family.

Dolphins are highly intelligent, social creatures who swim in groups called pods. They communicate with each other through a series of clicks, whistles, and squeaks, along with body language. Each dolphin has its own unique sound that it develops shortly after birth.

The average lifespan of a dolphin varies based on the species. Bottlenose dolphins live about 40 years. Orcas live about 70.

Learning About Dolphins

Dolphins are probably one of the best known sea mammals. Their popularity may be due to their smiling appearance and friendliness toward humans. Whatever it is, there are hundreds of books about dolphins. 

Try some of these to begin learning about these gentle giants:

Dolphin's First Day by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld tells the delightful story of a young bottlenose dolphin. Reviewed by the Smithsonian Institute for accuracy, this beautifully-illustrated book provides wonderful insight about the life of a dolphin calf.

Dolphins by Seymour Simon in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute features gorgeous, full-color photographs along with text that describes the behavior and physical characteristics of dolphins.

The Magic Tree House: Dolphins at Daybreak by Mary Pope Osborne is the perfect fiction book to accompany a study of dolphins for children in the 6- to 9-years-old age range. The ninth book in this wildly popular series features an underwater adventure sure to capture your student's attention.

Dolphins and Sharks (Magic Tree House Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne is the non-fiction companion to Dolphins at Daybreak. It's geared toward kids who read at a 2nd or 3rd grade level and is filled with interesting facts and photos about dolphins.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell is a Newbery medal winner that makes a fun fiction accompaniment to a unit study about dolphins. The book tells a story of survival about Karana, a young Indian girl who finds herself alone on a deserted island.

National Geographic Kids Everything Dolphins by Elizabeth Carney features beautiful, full-color photos and is packed with facts about dolphins, including the different species and conservation efforts.

More Resources for Learning About Dolphins

Seek out other opportunities to learn about dolphins. Try some of the following suggestions:

  • Download a set of free dolphin printables to begin learning the terminology associated with dolphins. The set includes coloring pages, vocabulary worksheets, and word puzzles.
  • Visit an aquarium or a park like Sea World.
  • Visit the ocean. If you go out on the ocean in a boat, you may be able to see dolphins swimming in the wild. We've even been able to observe them from the beach before.

Dolphins are beautiful, fascinating creatures. Have fun learning about them!

Updated by Kris Bales

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Hernandez, Beverly. "Homeschooling Resources for Learning About Dolphins." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Hernandez, Beverly. (2023, April 5). Homeschooling Resources for Learning About Dolphins. Retrieved from Hernandez, Beverly. "Homeschooling Resources for Learning About Dolphins." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).