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Classroom Resources

Here There Be Monsters

Teacher's Guide

Tips for Teachers


Step By Step through the Interactive

Students will follow this sequence as they complete the Here There Be Monsters interactive.

Students receive an alert form the PROduction Company. Chessie has been spotted in the Bay. The mayor has called a town meeting, and the user is urged to get there as soon as possible.

Students get to the town meeting just as the mayor leaves. They can read her press release or eavesdrop on the townspeople that have gathered for the meeting as they continue to talk about Chessie. As students roll over the image of a person, they read a snippet of conversation from the people listed below. They can click on the person to get a brief explanation of what the person means, and an opportunity to explore more about the fact or opinion the person offfers. At certain points, students will be prompted to reflect on what they are learning by posting to their PDA.

Because we know the vocabulary of science can be challenging, we have highlighted many words throughout this interactive. By clicking on words in red, students can read a definition of the term.

  • A woman who claims that the people may have mistaken what they saw for Chessie the manatee, an unlikely Bay visitor.
    • Students can explore more to learn about manatees in general and the male manatee that has visited the Bay in the past.
  • A man who thinks he may have spotted Chessie the sea monster in the past.
    • Students can explore more to learn about other sightings, including one documented sighting that scientists have examined very carefully.
  • A woman who claims that this recent sighting is just a ploy to increase tourism in the area.
    • Students can explore more to learn about the economic interaction between the watermen’s catches and the town’s economy and the possible effect of tourist dollars.
  • A woman who claims the reports are a hoax.
    • Students can explore more about this question, looking at other sea monster hoaxes and the reasons why people might make up this information.
  • A man who claims that the people who thought they saw Chessie were actually looking at something else, such as a log.
    • Students can explore more to learn if Chessie might actually be a real (and identified) creature that we already know about, such as a sturgeon and an anaconda.  
  • A man who claims that a creature like Chessie couldn’t survive in the Bay.
    • Students can look at many possibilities as they explore more, looking at the kind of habitat the Bay provides and if it would be suitable for a large mammal, reptile, or fish.
  • A man who claims that other previously “mythical” creatures have recently been identified as real, and that it might not be that much of a stretch to think of Chessie as one of them.
    • Students explore more to learn about these former “cryptids” (as unknown animals are sometimes called), such as giant squid and a prehistoric fish people used to think disappeared over 65 million years ago.

After gathering information, students have to use their PDAs to tell the PROduction Company what they think, responding to this prompt: “What do you think: is Chessie a real Bay creature … or just something people have imagined? What evidence do you have that supports your opinion? They also have to make a recommendation: should the PROduction Company include this story in their miniseries?

The story has a surprise ending. After filing their report, students read a local newspaper article that reports that two local watermen claimed to see Chessie in an effort to build tourism in the area to supplant monies lost from their reduced catches. As they read, something in the Bay catches their eye …

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Teacher Tips:  Before Using the Interactive

Review the interactive yourself prior to introducing it to the class and plan to use it with your students. You may want to consider questions such as:

  • How long do you think it will take your students to complete this activity?
  • What’s the best way to work with the interactive: singly? In groups? As a whole class?
  • Each user’s work is saved online, using his or her unique password. How might you take advantage of this to segment their work with the interactive to best fit your schedule and instructional needs?

This activity centers on a narrative about Chessie, interwoven with facts and opinions that help students become immersed in the events and characters of a story. You may want to introduce the interactive by talking about student expectations when they read a narrative, such as plot and character, explaining that site users become characters in this story.

You may want to use this interactive as an occasion for your students to explore:

  • the way scientists think about questions,
  • reading in the science content area, or
  • reading an informational online text.

The bullets below offer some suggested introductory activities for each approach.

  • How do scientists think about problems?
    Ask your students how they think scientists might attack a problem such as the one they encounter in this interactive: finding out if mythical creature is actually a reality. You might want to point to recent articles about the first sighting of a live giant squid by Japanese explorers. You could center the discussion on other cryptids, such as Bigfoot (Yeti) and efforts to prove or disprove their existence.
  • Reading in the science content area
    Talk about the similarities and differences between reading scientific information in a text book and in a newspaper or magazine.
  • Reading an informational online text
    Talk about the difference between reading a story in book form as compared with reading a story online. What do your students expect when they use each format? What information might be the same in each media? What might be different? (You may want to use this as an occasion to tell students that they can access definitions for some of the words in the online story by mousing over highlighted words in the text).

Before beginning the interactive, ask students what they already know about “Chessie,” a symbol that has been used extensively throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, for everything from a train system to paddling boats in the Inner Harbor. List their ideas or recollections on a green board, large piece of newsprint, or individually using this printable concept map (PDF).

You may want to talk about the title of this interactive with your students before they begin work on the interactive. The phrase “Here there be monsters” was used in ancient mapmaking to fill up wide expanses on unexplored territory. Sometimes, the more complete warning used was “Venture ye not to the edge of the chart, for here there be monsters.” What do your students think about when they hear this phrase? How might it relate to the story in the interactive?

Consider demonstrating the site with your students before they begin working with the site. Although we have designed the site to be as user-friendly as possible, you may want to show its major components, including the use of the PDA, depending on the needs of your students.

You might want to explain that students have to look at responses from 5 people, and done 2 or more EXPLORE MORE questions for each before completing the report to the PROduction Company. If they attempt to complete there report before that, they will receive this prompt: “The PROduction Company is counting on you to do a thorough job. You need to do more investigating.” If you want to use this activity on successive days, you can work around these stopping points by holding down SHIFT + SPACEBAR and clicking the continue button.

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Teacher Tips: During the Interactive

Encourage students to look at context clues in the text and use their mouse to access definitions for challenging words.

Students can use the note-taking feature of their PDA to jot down ideas they want to remember from what they read. After they “listen” to each person, their PDA will contain a prompt asking them to summarize what they have discovered. Students can email or print the information they write on the PDAs.

The PDA Responses Rubric can help you evaluate student work as they negotiate this interactive.

You can use these printables to help students as they work with this interactive:

  • Mayor’s Press Release (PDF)
    This press release is a copy of the release that appears in the interactive.
  • Story map (PDF)
    This chart can help students track their progress in the narrative.  
  • Fact or Opinion Chart (PDF)
    This chart allows students to sift through the information they learn from each person they talk to, delineating fact from opinion. You should print at least five copies for each student if you want to use this printable to help them record their observations.
  • Thinking Visually (PDF)
    This organizer helps students record their evolving visions of what the mythical sea monster Chessie looks like, depending on the clues they gather as they “listen” to what others have to say about it.

A complete printable script (PDF) is also available. It includes all the information in the narrative.

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Teacher Tips:  After Using the Interactive

Create Your Own  . . . What might your students do if they thought they saw Chessie? Direct them to create their own story about the sighting, concluding by expressing an opinion as to whether they actually saw the monster or realized what they were seeing was something else.

Webquests . . . Students can create their own webquests by collecting links to various authentic and accurate sites related to any number of topics, including other cryptids such as Nessie or Bigfoot; giant mammals, giant reptiles, or giant fish; monsters; or other topics of interest.

Plan of Attack . . . What else might students, as scientists, do to prove or disprove the existence of Chessie? What kinds of observations might they make? What kind of proof would they need to find?

What kind of a home …  would Chessie need, if Chessie were a real creature? Students could design an appropriate habitat for this mythical creature and create a diagram, poster, or piece of art representing their thoughts. Are there any probable locations in the world where sea monsters this size might live comfortably?

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