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Rocky the Right Whale Went to Summer Camp

More than 880 kids, ages pre-K through high school, got to meet Rocky, the life-size inflatable right whale calf, this past summer as part of a NOAA Fisheries education and outreach program. 

Children learned about marine mammal bones and artifacts to explore different kinds of feeding adaptations, sizes, and skull shapes.

The goal of this program was to reach kids in underserved communities on the North Shore of Massachusetts who have limited opportunities to visit and learn about the ocean despite living near it. How did we achieve this goal? We brought the ocean to them!  

Summer educators Taylor Bulow, Christine Francois, and Meredith Moise from the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office’s Marine Mammal Program attended summer programs run by the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Girls, Inc. Through this program, kids from the communities of Salisbury, Lynn, Haverhill, Salem, Beverly, Lowell, Lawrence, and Gloucester, got a hands-on introduction to marine mammals.

The campers spent one-on-one time with educators at several stations, learning about topics that ranged from how baleen works to filter tiny plankton and small fish into the mouths of enormous whales, to gear-marking and whale entanglement reduction strategies. Handling and comparing marine mammal bones spurred investigations into how human and marine mammal bodies are similar, and how each has adapted to its environment.

Middle and high school students received more rigorous lessons on topics such as underwater sound, careers in marine science, and the educational paths marine scientists and policy makers follow.

Kids learned how baleen works by experimenting with different tools capable of catching "food" of different sizes.
 

Christa Brown, outreach coordinator for Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell appreciated the program’s fit with Girls Inc.’s work to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold. “They learned about how to become scientists who work with and study marine life and learned about important women working in the field. This was an exciting experience for our aspiring marine biologists   

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the nation's ocean resources and their habitat. Educating the public about the marine environment fosters marine stewardship and helps grow our future scientists and policy makers.

We hope to meet a few of these kids in a decade or two as marine biologists!

For more information on this program, contact the Marine Mammal Program Outreach Coordinator Allison Rosner at Allison.Rosner@noaa.gov or 978-282-8462.