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Home-work: Educational Activities from the NYSM that You Can Do from Home!

Whale-tastic Educational Activities

The NYSM Right Whale was featured in the FaceBook Live Field Trip to the NYSM with archaeologist, Daria Merwin. (View the field trip here:

Enjoy the following related activities and information below:
The whaling industry was a booming business in New York State in the late 18th and early 19th century. Whales like the North Atlantic Right Whale were hunted and used for their blubber (fat that could be rendered into oil) and baleen (bristly plates used for filter feeding). Overhunting lead to the decline of the Right Whale population and consumers moved towards replacing whale-products with other options like kerosene. Now, the North Atlantic Right Whale is listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Image below from the New York State Museum is a 38-foot skeleton of a Right Whale.


Measure out 38 feet to see just how long a Right Whale is. Another baleen whale, the Blue Whale — the world’s largest creature ever known — is in life about ten feet longer than twice as long as this Right Whale skeleton displayed here. Calculate how many feet long a Blue Whale would be. Then using a tape measure create a “Blue Whale” to compare side by side with the Right Whale skeleton.

Blubber is how the Right Whale stays warm in ice-cold water. We can try a fun experiment at home: fill 2 bowls with ice water, fill a Ziploc bag with shortening and insert another Ziploc bag to keep your hand clean, now at the same time put your bare hand into one bowl and your hand in the shortening bag in the other bowl. Can you feel the difference? Is one colder than the other?

View museum artifacts that were made with using whale products like whale oil lamps here: