Educator Spotlight: Tracking Leatherback Sea Turtles

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Jessica Lura

Jessica Lura is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California. A National Board Certified Teacher and Google Certified Innovator, she has taught both elementary and middle school.

Activity: Tracking Leatherback Sea Turtles

Grade Level: 3rd grade

Activity Length: Two 1-hour class periods

Subjects: social studies, science, math

The pictures of leatherback sea turtles in this video were created by students—the painted one is from a mural we made for Leatherback Sea Turtle Day (October 15 in California) and the hand-drawn picture is from a student art class.

Activity Overview:

Using printable 1-Page Maps of the world and the United States, students mapped real-time data from the Sea Turtle Conservancy. Their maps showed the migration paths taken by tagged leatherback sea turtles.

Students learned about scale by mapping different migration routes on both the world and United States maps. Some turtles migrated around the islands of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, while other leatherbacks migrated across the Pacific, between California and Indonesia or Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands.

How did your activity help your students learn about the world?

Our school has a larger, interdisciplinary focus on leatherback sea turtles. Thanks to this focus, students were able to see the connection between the lesson, the importance of critical species, and the attribute of responsibility.

Based on the data and conversation, students started to make suggestions for helping to mitigate the effect humans have on leatherbacks.

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Student artwork of a leatherback sea turtle.

Please tell us more about the school’s focus on leatherback sea turtles?

Leatherback sea turtles are a part of an environmental science strand implemented in all grade levels at Bullis Charter School. From kindergartners participating in “Turtle Camp” and learning about marine debris, to sixth-grade students who visit Costa Rica and work with researchers from the Leatherback Trust on turtle science, leatherbacks hold a special place at our school.

Do you have a favorite book, blog, or quote that inspires you in your personal life or in your teaching?

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
—Albert Einstein

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