Dolphins on the Sand

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
Act of Kindness
Civil Society
A guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.

by Jim Arnosky

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

A dolphin is graceful in the water, but if he gets stranded on the beach, he cannot move to save himself. This story follows the drama of a dolphin rescue, showing love and respect for these amazing creatures. Families can discuss the joy that comes from reaching out to help someone in need.

Before Reading

ASK: What words can you think of that describe dolphins in the water? How do you feel about dolphins?

SHOW: Look at the cover. Does this look like a true story or fiction? Why do you think that? (It is actually an idealized account of an actual event.)

CONNECT: Have you ever heard of dolphins getting stranded on a beach? Sometimes dolphins beach themselves, but we don’t know why for sure. If they get stuck, they can get dry and tired. The weight of their own bodies (which are normally held up in water) can put too much pressure on their inside organs. Rescuers try to get them safely back in the water before they are too badly hurt.

During Reading

ASK: Who do you think the people are who came to help the beached dolphins? How do you think you could help if you were nearby?

SHOW: Look at the page with the sharks. How do you think the rescuers felt right then?

CONNECT: The dolphins must have felt helpless and hopeless when they found themselves stuck. They truly needed the help of their rescuers. Have you ever recognized that someone else truly needed help? If you ever saw that need in an animal or a person, would you be eager to help? Why do you think you’d want to help? Why do you think someone might not want to help? How can a young person help? (Make sure children understand they should seek a trusted adult to help the animal or person in need; they may put themselves in danger by assisting an unknown animal.)

After Reading

ASK: The people helped the dolphins get back to their safe home. How do you think the people felt at the end?

SHOW: Read the Author’s Note at the end. The author said that one of the reasons dolphin’s beach themselves might be because sonar soundings by big ships disorient them. Is this an example of humans upsetting the balance of nature? Do you think there is anything we can do about that? Should we do anything about that? Why or why not?

CONNECT: Can you think of other animals that need our help? Do you think you can do anything to help?


  1. Jim Arnosky draws other natural objects and life besides the dolphins. Draw some nature around your house and community. Look for little things to draw in detail, such as a flower, a weed, an insect, or a nest.

  2. Visit an Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited aquarium or natural museum to learn about dolphins and other sea life.

  3. Go to the Cousteau Kids at to learn more about oceans and sea animals that need help. Learn how to become a Cousteau Kids member.

  4. Subscribe to National Geographic Kids magazine, and every month you’ll be able to learn more about the world and your part in it. To subscribe, go to and look for the subscribe button. While you are on the website, explore kids’ activities, videos about animals, and online games.

  5. Write a description of a dolphin. Use creative words to describe his actions, movement, and appearance, and include your feelings about dolphins. Optional: turn your descriptions into a poem.

  6. Make a blue wave bottle. Clean and remove the label on a soda bottle. Keep the screw-on cap. Fill the bottle just under halfway with water and add four drops of blue food coloring. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with baby oil. Optional: add a sprinkle of glitter. Screw on the cap tightly and turn the bottle on its side. Rock it gently to simulate wave action.