Whales of the Salish Sea

Dec 8, 2015

As an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, part of my duty is to provide educational opportunities to underserved communities, in addition to supporting our organizational mission of inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea. Our residential program, Whales of the Salish Sea (WOSS), is a perfect example of how these tasks combine and complement each other. For three days in November, almost fifty 5th graders toured the Marine Science Center and received hands-on lessons in marine biology and public policy. WOSS was also a chance for our entire AmeriCorps team to work together and learn from each other and experienced educators, including WOSS Coordinator (and past AmeriCorps member) Megan Veley.

On the first day, we introduced students to marine mammals and dove into the ecology of orca communities. Everyone received a hands-on lesson about the important role of blubber in insulating whales from the cold waters of the Salish Sea. I got the chance to coach several students through the process of scientific drawing when we observed marine mammal skulls as a class to identify their adaptation for living in the ocean. The students also answered questions including “how do researchers identify individual orcas?” and “what kinds of relationships exist between pods of orcas?”

Students used an insulated "blubber glove" in a bucket of seawater to understand how whales keep warm and assembled a gray whale skeleton.

Next, students got an up-close look at the tiniest animals in the Salish Sea and a hands-on lesson with one of the largest when they examined plankton under microscopes and articulated Spirit, our gray whale skeleton.

Read the rest of Carolyn's story on our blog!