Today we were inspired by two books about sea turtles. The first is Sea Turtle Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Stephen R. Swinburne. This book for middle grade students reveals Dr. Kimberly Stewart’s efforts to investigate and conserve sea turtles on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts. See a full review of the book at our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.

For younger readers, we found Leatherback Turtles (Reptiles) by Mandy R. Marx with consulting editor Gail Saunders-Smith PhD. This is part of a series of informational books about reptiles featuring short sentences and carefully controlled vocabulary perfect for beginning readers.

Learn about sea turtles:

Sea turtles are pretty amazing creatures. There are currently seven recognized species:

  • leatherback sea turtle
  • green sea turtle
  • loggerhead sea turtle
  • Kemp’s ridley sea turtle
  • hawksbill sea turtle
  • flatback sea turtle
  • olive ridley sea turtle

The leatherback sea turtle is in a separate family from the other species. It is the largest turtle, and it is also unique because it lacks a hard shell. Baby loggerheads hatch out of eggs laid in the sand on beaches. The little loggerhead turtles crawl to the sea where they live for 20 to 30 years before they reach maturity. Amazingly, once they are fully grown, the females return to the same beach where they hatched out to lay their eggs.

The Kemp’s ridley and olive ridley also return to the beaches where they hatched to lay eggs. These two species, however, are a little different because many, many females return to the same beaches, all at the same time. These mass landings of female sea turtles are called “arribadas.”

This video shows a sea turtle arribada from Costa Rica. WARNING for little viewers:  The video does show eggs coming out of the female’s body. There’s also a graphic scene of vultures feeding on a dead sea turtle around the 2:20 minute mark (near the end).

Scientists are studying how sea turtles can remember the beaches where they hatched and how they know which way to swim to return. One thing they found is that sea turtles can sense the Earth’s magnetic field and use it as a guide.

 Did you know that…?

Like whales and dolphins, sea turtles must return to the surface to breathe.

Ways to help sea turtles:

Light pollution is a hazard to sea turtles. Newly-hatched sea turtles use light from the stars and moon and reflections on the water to navigate to the sea. If there are bright lights from human sources around their hatching sites, the sea turtles become disoriented and head inland instead of out to sea, which is usually deadly. Efforts are being organized to cut down excessive lighting along beaches while the sea turtles are hatching.

Finally, sea turtles mistake floating plastic bags for their natural food, jellyfish, and swallow them. The bags are not digestible and can cause death. Protect sea turtles and other animals by making sure plastic bags are properly recycled, or even better, use reusable cloth bags instead.

Related activities and links to lesson plans:

Download the discussion and activities guide for Sea Turtle Scientist at Steve Swinburne’s website, as well as posters, leaflets and find links to other great websites.

See Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Plastic in the Water Column lesson (scroll down to see link to .pdf lesson) as well as their open sea cam where you might spot a sea turtle.

For more information about related creatures, see our previous week of ocean-themed books and activities at Growing with Science.

Why not combine your STEM lesson with some great art by creating a watercolor sea turtle? Drawing and painting animals requires the same close observation skills so useful to scientists.

Sea Turtle Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Stephen R. Swinburne

Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (January 7, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0547367554
ISBN-13: 978-0547367552

Leatherback Turtles (Reptiles) by Mandy R. Marx with consulting editor Gail Saunders-Smith PhD

Reading Level:  K-1
Publisher: Capstone Press (January 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1429666463
ISBN-13: 978-1429666466

Disclosures:  Sea Turtle Scientist was provided by our local library. Leatherback Turtles was provided by the publisher for review purposes.  I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


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