Body Zones: Exploring Comparative Anatomy

First grade Regional Multicultural Magnet School students in New London, CT learned all about comparative anatomy with educators, Camo (Sean), Noodle (Lauren), and Pisces (Lilia)! We explored the differences between how whales, squid, and crabs breathe, move, and protect themselves throughout three rotations.



Students learned all about how and why animals protect themselves by using whales, squid, and crabs as examples. The blubber glove, a bag filled with vegetable shortening, simulates how blubber keeps whales warm in the deep ocean. Students put their hands in a bucket of ice water with and without the glove to really feel the difference! Squid use their tentacles and ink to protect themselves. The first graders saw these body parts up close with a squid dissection. Finally, live crabs were brought out to show how they use their claws, camouflage, and shells to keep safe!

Size, Shape, & Motion


Next, the students learned about how the animals’ bodies vary in size and shape. We used a very long measuring tape to take an interactive trip through the sizes of different marine animals. Did you know the Lions Mane Jellyfish can grow up to 120 feet? That’s bigger than a blue whale! Next, we looked again at squid, but this time focusing on their shape and how they move. Students pointed out the conical body shape, as well as siphons that propel the them through the water. We also looked at some pictures of giant squid for comparison! Lastly, we looked at the differences between types of crabs, like blue crabs and hermit crabs. Students discussed why they live in shells and how big some crabs, like the Japanese Spider Crab, can get!



The third rotation explored how different marine animals can breathe underwater. Whales are mammals just like us, so they need oxygen to breathe. But unlike humans, they can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes! Our students timed how long they can hold their breath using stop watches. The squid were brought out again to show how squid pump water through the mantle that absorbs oxygen to help them breathe underwater. Aquatic crabs, like the ones our educators brought to the class, have gills and breathe underwater just like fish! The students looked at crab molts to identify the gills.

Throughout our day with the RMMS students, we learned all about how biological form and function work together. It is always a blast to have real, hands-on learning experiences! Even if we aren’t by the water for our lessons, we bring STEM-based ocean adventure experiential learning to the classroom.