Whales and their offspring in San Ignacio Lagoon

For millennia, gray whales have made an annual pilgrimage from the cold, rich marine waters in the Gulf of Alaska to the warm, protected waters of San Ignacio Lagoon. The calm bay sits on the west coast of Baja California. There the mother whales feel safe from predators and give birth to their calves. They also urge the newborn giants to make contact with humans, who await them in boats, hoping for an opportunity to pet them. In this vast shelter, both the Mexican government and the boatmen, fishermen the rest of the year, guard the whales and nurture the friendship between people and the gentle leviathans.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the gray whales’ migratory trips from cold to warm waters.

Social Studies Standards

People, Places & Environments:

D, E, G

Discussion Prompts

  • How might the French have found Santa Rosalia’s town? How might their influence change the growth of the town?
  • Explain and justify the impact of the religion brought by the Jesuits to Santa Rosalia?
  • For the residents, what are the pros and cons of the gray whales’ yearly migration? What would the local consequences be if the whales changed location due to climate change? What could the locals do to avoid that?
  • What are some of the most original ways conservationists are protecting endangered creatures such as the gray whales and the environments that support them?

Lesson Activities

  • The French entrepreneurs stayed in Sant Rosalia for over 60 years. Research the town’s French influence (language, culture, food, and traditions) and compare to another city influenced by the Spaniards, such as the Mexican town of Santiago de Querétaro.
  • What kind of behavior displayed by the whales are considered friendly or good? What similar behavior do the whales and humans share? Create a marketing brochure about their yearly visit highlighting the differences and similarities between the two species.
  • The gray whales start their migratory seasonal trips sometime in October, taking around two to three months to reach their destination. Looking at a map, choose at least five places that are in their route, and might be used to recharge until the destination. Explain your choices.
  • Create a visual display of the different kinds of food abundant along their journey and the bodies of water they stop at during their seasonal round trip.


  • baleen
  • bay
  • colossal
  • filter
  • gulf
  • leviathan
  • lagoon
  • plankton
  • port
  • smelter


In the Americas Season 10 Lesson Episode 6