Dolphins in the Navy
written by Meish Goldish
2012 (Bearport Publishing)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Check out Nonfiction Monday at Lori Calabrese
The Navy Marine Mammal Program has been around since 1960. It started with bottle nose dolphins and now includes sea lions. These mammals are trained to carry out many important tasks. For example, K-Dog the dolphin swam in the waters of the Persian Gulf in order to find sea mines that would disable ships trying to reach an Iraqi port. He used echolocation to find the mines. When he found a mine, he would swim back to the boat where his handler was waiting. After signaling his handler that he had found something, K-Dog was given a floating marker to identify the object so human divers could go investigate. A group of dolphins was able to help clear the area of more than one hundred mines in a week's time. Dolphins are also trained to find terrorists in the water. They bump into enemy swimmers and tag them with a locating device. The marine mammals are used to protect U.S. ports that may be attacked. The second half of Dolphins in the Navy investigates how these dolphins are treated by their handlers. Around the clock veterinary care is provided to make sure these sea soldiers are healthy. It may be that in the future the dolphins and sea lions may not be needed. The Navy has developed an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) which is a small submarine that can find sea mines. This device is still being tested to see if it will be able to replace the animals.
Dolphins in the Navy is one of four books in the America's Animal Soldiers series from Bearport. Dolphins are a popular topic with students, so there will be plenty of interest in this title. I think you could use this book to teach the skill of identifying facts and opinions and how to write an opinion piece. You could ask students to write an opinion piece about the ethics of using animals in the military. This leads to the teaching of main idea and supporting details. There are also several text features that can be highlighted as well.