Island of the

Blue Dolphin WebQuest

A WebQuest for 4th Grade

Designed by

Anna P. de la Garza

Melissa Garcia

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


The Newbery Award winning book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’ Dell, is the central point of the different activities related to the individual existence on an Island.  A young Indian girl learns to survive through knowledge of the physical environment and natural resources.  She is faced with difficult challenges and finds herself missing her people.  Based on a new story O’Dell represents realistic challenges and solutions as the Indian girl struggles to fulfill her basic needs. 

Activities in this unit are designed for the students to explore topics introduced in the story.  The lessons are interdisciplinary, including activities in social studies, science, language arts and life skills.  Activities done in the unit will help students come to an understanding of Karana’s background environment and experiences. 

Featured Dolphin Pictures

The Task

Science Activity

1.  “Dolphins are animals of good omen.  It made me happy to have them swimming around the canoe, and though my hands had begun to bleed from the chafing of the paddle, just watching them made me forget the pain.  I was very lonely before they appeared, but now I felt that I had friends with me and did not feel the same.”

Although they live in water, dolphins are mammals and have characteristics like other mammals.  However, they also have many unique characteristics as marine mammals.  Find out about the special characteristics of dolphins by visiting the mentioned sites. 

Fine Arts Activity

2.  Karana is forced to create many ingenious inventions with very little resources.  Students will be divided into cooperative groups.  Each group will be provided with the following materials: three Popsicle sticks, one elastic bank, a piece of string, glue, and an item that may be in the classroom.

Language Arts Activity

3.  In the culminating activity, the student will use information discovered in the research lessons to create a written report and oral presentation.  The student may chose to write a creative, expository, informative, or persuasive article.  See choices below to complete the report.

The Process


First Process:  Science Activity

From:  All about Dolphins All About Dolphins

1.    Describe what a dolphin really is.

2.    Are all dolphins colored the same?  Explain the reasons for your answer.

3.    Where do dolphins live?  Which area do they prefer?

4.    What do dolphins have to keep them warm?  Do you think the same works for humans?

5.    Dolphins have 100 teeth yet they don’t chew their prey.  For what are the teeth used?  What is included in their diet?

6.    What causes some of the dolphins to become endangered?

7.    Students will work with a partner and write a descriptive paper on differences between dolphins and other mammals. (See other Mammals)

(Visit Davids Dolphin Images for some great photos.)

Davids Dolphin Images

Second Process:  Fine Arts Activity

1.    With a partner students will invent a tool.

2.    Students must first brainstorm possible tools before beginning construction.

3.    The students will use the materials provided by teacher to come up with a creative tool.

4.    Next, Students will complete a Survival Chart for Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Then they will create their own survival chart meeting their  needs.

Miwok Tools

Survival Chart for Island of the Blue Dolphins.doc

Third Process:  Language Arts Activity

1.    Continue Karana’s story when she arrives at the mission.

2.    Suppose Karana is captured by the Aleuts and taken to their homeland.  Would her life have been better?  Continue Karana’s story as she learns to survive in that environment.

3.    The Chumash featured several authentic dishes, what were they? Remember to include any foods grown or hunted on the island.

4.    You are the reporter from the Santa Barbara Mission Gazette.  When Karana is rescued from the Island, you have the opportunity to interview her for your paper.  Write a news article detailing Karana’s rescue and how she survived for so many years.  Be sure to include quotations from Karana.

5.    Choose two animals you researched and explain why they were so important to survival on the island.

6.    Compare the Chumash and Aleuts?  What do they have in common?  What are some differences between the tribes.

(See references below)

·         Chumash Life

·         Chumash Indians

·         Who Are the Chumash?

·         Eskimos and Aleuts

·         Sea Otter

·         Sea Otter: From the Cradle to the Wave

·         About Octopuses

·         Selected Cephalopod Species

·         Human Nutrition


Describe to the learners how their performance will be evaluated. Specify whether there will be a common grade for group work vs. individual grades.

 Click here to go to Rubric


After reading Island of the Blue Dolphins and completed the activities, the students will have a better understanding of the different roles that Karana accomplished.  The students will be able to use what they have learned and apply it to future lessons about dolphins, bodies of water, journals and creative map skills. 

The students worked in cooperative groups to complete the activities that were selected in this unit.  They accomplished all the activities by working together.  They were able to put their ideas together to come up with great maps, creative tools, writing journals and to learn more about the dolphins.

As a teacher we would like to know the following:

·        If Karana had a map to guide would it have been different?

·        Did any of your groups interpret the story in another way?  Tell about it.

·        Were you able to work together as a group?  Did you have difficulty getting all the group members to cooperate?

·        What kind of questions did you have in your groups?  Was there anything that you would have like to have done differently?

Credits & References

O’Dell, Scott  Island of the Blue Dolphin. 1960. New York Houghton  Mifflin Company



Sources listed above

Last updated on August 15, 1999. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page