The harp seal's range includes the Arctic Ocean, the North Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Based on its breeding grounds, the harp seal can be divided into three distinct populations found throughout the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic. The largest, at an estimated 5.2 million seals, is the Northwest Atlantic herd, which breeds within the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland. The other two populations can be found in the White Sea, near Russia, and in the Greenland Sea.

Canadian Geographic


© 2010, Royal Canadian Geographical Society. All Rights Reserved.


A close-up of a harp seal on ice.

Scientific name: Phoca groenlandica (also Pagophilus groenlandicus) Average weight: 130 kg–135 kg (female smaller than male) Average length: 1.4 m–1.9 m Average lifespan: 30 years or more The harp seal has an irregular, dark V-shaped mark on its back that resembles a harp, hence its common name. It is also sometimes referred to as a “saddleback.” This feature is most distinctive in the male. The adult has a whitish to greyish body and a completely black face.

iStockphoto


© 2010, Royal Canadian Geographical Society. All Rights Reserved.


An Inuit hunter carves up a freshly caught seal in Hudson Bay.

A harp seal may seem cute to some and dinner to others. A wolf’s call may be something nice to hear if you are snug in your house, but chilling if you are out walking your small dog. The orca is also referred to as the killer whale, and with this murderous moniker the United States Navy felt justified in using the animal for target practice. Our perspective of these and other animals has evolved as we learned more about them.

Marija Dumancic

© 2010, Royal Canadian Geographical Society. All Rights Reserved.


The harp seal: understanding cultural perspectives

Lesson Overview
Students will explore how the harp seal has been a key component of Canada’s ocean environment and how it is a part of the food chain as both a predator and a resource by indigenous groups and settlers’ economic survival.

Grade Level
Secondary: Grades 9-12.This lesson could be easily modified for elementary and junior high levels

Time Required
Delivered in two to four classes.

Curriculum Connection
Atlantic Provinces Curriculum for Social Studies: Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET):
People, Place and Environment
• Evaluate issues concerning the diversity and sustainability of the Earth’s ecosystems.
• Evaluate the role of perspective, power and authority in the use of and development of policies to manage Earth’s resources.
Interdependence
• Analyze and evaluate Read More
The harp seal: understanding cultural perspectives

Lesson Overview
Students will explore how the harp seal has been a key component of Canada’s ocean environment and how it is a part of the food chain as both a predator and a resource by indigenous groups and settlers’ economic survival.

Grade Level
Secondary: Grades 9-12.This lesson could be easily modified for elementary and junior high levels

Time Required
Delivered in two to four classes.

Curriculum Connection
Atlantic Provinces Curriculum for Social Studies: Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET):
People, Place and Environment
• Evaluate issues concerning the diversity and sustainability of the Earth’s ecosystems.
• Evaluate the role of perspective, power and authority in the use of and development of policies to manage Earth’s resources.
Interdependence
• Analyze and evaluate the opportunities and challenges of an increasingly interdependent world.
• Evaluate and propose possible solutions to issues resulting from interactions among individuals, groups and societies
Culture and Diversity
• Analyze the factors that contribute to the perception of self and the development of a worldview.
• Analyze and explain the ways cultures address human needs and wants.
• Evaluate the causes and consequences of differing world views
Individuals, Societies and Economic Decisions
• Evaluate factors that influence the distribution of wealth locally, nationally and internationally.
• Evaluate the consequences of the consumer oriented society
• Analyze the dynamics of the market in the local, national and global economy.

Link to the Return to the Wild Virtual Exhibition
www.canadiangeographic.ca/vmc

Range map showing extent of habitat of harp seal
Additional Resources, Materials and Equipment Required:
• Computers and Internet access
• Copies of student activity worksheet “Web Resources” sheet (attached) with a variety of URLs

Main Objective:

The main objective of this lesson is to learn, understand and appreciate various perspectives on an issue.

Learning Outcomes:
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
• Locate the habitat and range of the harp seal
• Detail the characteristics of a harp seal.
• Understand the complexities surrounding resource extraction of specific species.
• Describe the social, cultural and economic implications of the harp seal harvest.
• Be able to examine and articulate the positions of all groups with an interest in this species.
• Understand that information given by all interests can be both truthful and misleading.
• Understand the seal life cycle.
• Understand seal food sources.

The Lesson

Teacher Activity/Student Activity

Introduction
Teacher:
1. Ask students what they know about the harp seal. Explore the concept of perspective and explain that we can examine the harp seal through many perspectives. Instruct that through research and discussion they will discover what a harp seal is, where it is found, what its habitat is like, the food it eats and its predators, how it has been utilized as a resource, and should it be continued to be used as a resource.

2. To raise awareness of the multiple perspectives involved, prompt students to list the different perspectives with interests inn the harp seal
Student:
1. Relay what they already know about the harp seal.
2. Compile a list (including but not restricted to) of the following interest groups, e.g.:
• Government
• Fishers
• Inuit
• Early settlers
• Marine scientists
• Conservationists
• Present coastal inhabitants

Lesson Development
Teacher:
3. Distribute student activity worksheet “Web Resources” and instruct students to find as much information as they can about each interest group. (Students can work alone or in assigned groups of teacher’s choice.)

4. Briefly discuss bias and make students aware that some sites they visit may be biased. Ask why groups/ sites may deliberately post misinformation, or exclude information, or use sensational means to gain support for their perspective.

5. After research period, reassemble whole group. Ask if any evidence of bias was noted. Remind students that everyone is entitled to their own perspective and that by examining the perspective of others, we may be inclined to defend or change our own.
Student:
3. Research the websites given to locate information and construct knowledge on different perspectives by answering questions on student activity worksheet “Web Resources.”

4. Clarify what bias means and how viewpoints can be altered.
5. Present findings in an open, objective session.

Conclusion
Teacher:
6. Explain that in a democracy we have the right to have an informed position on an issue. Ask students, by using an issues scale (1-10) where they stand on the issue of whether Canada should continue to harvest the harp seal.
7. Ask students to stand as number groups, and in turn, ask them to tell why they chose the position they have. Caution to respectfully listen to and accept the perspective of the others.
8. At the end of groups, ask if anyone has reconsidered since hearing their classmates speak.
Student:
6. Show by standing where they fall on the scale.
7. Tell why they have taken that position and listen to the views of others in a tolerant open-minded way with no challenges, counter-arguments, or rebuttals.
8. Articulate why or why not they may have changed their views.

Lesson Extension
1. Have students prepare a formal debate where both sides of the seal hunting controversy are represented. Students could also make posters convincing their audience of the pros and cons of the ban.
2. “Death on the Ice” by Cassie Brown is a book about the death of a group of Newfoundland seal hunters. It gives an in depth look at the inquest into these deaths, as well as the nature and methods of the Atlantic Coast seal hunt. Assign this novel for reading, and have students prepare a report on the aspects of the life of a sealer, of the merchants, and of the expectations of these sealers at the front.
3. At the web site http://archives.cbc.ca/for_teachers/688/, have students complete this activity.
4. The Inuit have been innocent bystanders in this debate, as their traditional ways of life have been under threat from both sides of the harp seal debate. Go to http://www.kitikmeotheritage.ca/guide/SH2/Lack%20of%20understanding.pdf and read the article. Then answer the questions from Research the Inuit Seal Hunt. How has the protest of the harp seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Gulf of St. Lawrence hunt affected the Inuit? How can the Inuit separate their hunt from the others? What, if anything, can the Inuit do to build a campaign of understanding for their traditional hunt?

Assessment
Student report (group or individual) using information gathered.

Link to Canadian National Standards for Geography:

Essential Element #1: The World in Spatial Terms
• Using maps (computer and print) Spatial graphics (various map types)
• Interpret satellite-produced images to locate and identify physical and human features.
Essential Elements #2: Places and Regions
• Physical and human characteristics of places and regions within the province and Canada
• The importance of places and regions to individual and social identity
• Changes in Places and regions over time
Essential Elements #4: Human Systems
• Convergence and divergence of cultures
• Global economic interdependence
• Patterns of global power and influence
Essential Element #5: Environment and Society
• Use and sustainability of resources
Geographic Skill #1: Asking Geographic Questions
• Ask geographic questions.
• Distinguish between geographic and non-geographic questions.
Geographic Skill #2: Acquiring Geographic Information
• Locate, gather and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps.
• Make and record observations about the physical and human characteristics of places.
Geographic Skill #3: Organizing Geographic Information
• Prepare maps to display geographic information.
• Construct graphs, tables and diagrams to display geographic information.
Geographic Skill #4: Analyzing Geographic Information
• Use maps to observe and interpret geographic relationships
• Use tables and graphs to observe and interpret geographic trends and relationships
• Use texts, photographs and documents to observe and interpret geographic trends and relationships.
• Use simple mathematics to analyze geographic data.


THE HARP SEAL

STUDENT ACTIVITY WORKSHEET

Web Resources

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/Magazine/JF00/feature_seal.asp
http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-phoque/reports-rapports/mgtplan-plangest0610/mgtplan-plangest0610-eng.htm
http://www.sealsandsealing.net/index.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_hunting
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/harp-seal.html
http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=302
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Pagophilus_groenlandicus.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/mammals/pinniped/Harpsealprintout.shtml
http://www.thesealfishery.com/facts1.php
http://www.seashepherd.org/seals/seal-hunt-facts.html
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/05/05/f-seal-hunt.html
http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/04/18/the-millions-ottawa-spends-subsidizing-the-seal-hunt.aspx
http://archives.cbc.ca/economy_business/business/topics/986/
http://www.sealharvest.ca/
http://archives.cbc.ca/for_teachers/686/
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2009/05/05/eu-seal-ban-505.html
http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/eu-ue/policies-politiques/seals-phoques.aspx?lang=eng

Research the following on the above websites, and prepare a summary for class discussion and related activities:

• Prepare a table of facts about the harp seal.
• Create a food web, which includes the harp seal.
• What species are predators of seals and what species are seals predators of?
• What uses are there for seals harvested from the hunt in the past and present?
• What are the arguments for continuing with the seal hunt? Are these arguments valid? What makes you sure?
• What are the arguments against the seal hunt? Are these arguments valid? What makes you sure?
• Define propaganda. How are both sides of the issue using propaganda to further their argument?
• In what other parts of the world are seals used as a resource?

© 2010, Royal Canadian Geographical Society. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The main objective of this lesson is to learn, understand and appreciate various perspectives on an issue.

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