Free Willy? An Argument Analysis of the Controversy over Captive Killer Whale Populations

An abused captive or a treasured performer? Class members conduct an analysis of arguments presented by both sides regarding the captive killer whale population, labeling those claims that can be supported and those that need additional information before deciding if the claim is true. The class then engages in a philosophical chairs discussion before individuals craft a reflection in which they compare the arguments for and against keeping killer whales in captivity and present their own position.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas

  • Encourage learners to bring in current materials they find in newspapers or online sources, evaluating the credibility and bias of each point of view
  • Show select scenes from the 2013 film Blackfish, and contrast with advertisements sponsored by Sea World and other marine life organizations

  • Focuses on the validity of the arguments and of evidence presented
  • Includes all necessary materials for the lesson



  • The source materials show that little current scientific information is available on orcas
  • Readers may be distracted by the ads in the Orlando Sentinel article