May/June 2023

Who Helps Baby Otter?

Academic Standards



Reading Objective:

Children will identify ways that sea otter moms help their little pups learn to grow up and survive in the ocean.


Reading Level:

Lexile: 500L; GRL: L


Next Generation Science Standards:

2-LS4-1 Diversity of life in habitats



survive, kelp, surface, shimmy, stash

Use these questions to check students’ understanding and stimulate discussion:


1.  Where is a baby sea otter born?
(in the ocean)

2. How do sea otters moms keep babies safe when they are away? (They tie them to kelp.)

3. Are sea otter babies born knowing how to swim?
(No. They have to learn to swim.)

4. Describe how sea otters can use tools. Why did this surprise scientists? (Sea otters crack open clamshells with rocks. Scientists used to think only people used tools.)

Go online to print or project the Reading Checkpoint.


  • In the U.S., there are sea and river otters. Sea otters


  • have furry faces and are bigger than river otters.


  • Sea otters are the largest members of the weasel


  • family, which includes skunks and badgers.


  • Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium helps raise baby sea


  • otters and was a big help with this issue!

Materials: pencils, copies of the skill sheet, (optional: materials for building the tool—scrap paper, cardboard, straws, tape, glue, etc.)

Overview: Sea otters use tools to get food, and so do we! Students design a tool to help them reach (imaginary) snacks from a high shelf. If there’s time, they can build their tool.


  1. To begin, remind students that some animals use tools: Sea otters use rocks to open clamshells. Dolphins use sea sponges to cover their beaks so they’re not scraped on the sea floor when they hunt for food.
  2. Tell your students it’s their turn to come up with a tool to help get food. Someone put (imaginary) snacks on a high shelf. Can students design a tool to help reach them?
  3. Give each student a copy of the skill sheet. They can work on their own or confer with a partner
  4. When kids have finished their designs, they can share them with the class.
  5. If you have the supplies and the time, kids can build their tools.