Monday, August 9, 2010

Whale Camp- Not your average summer camp

From July 11-17, 2010 campers from all over the country gathered with one common interest- WHALES. Whale Camp is a collaboration between The Port Townsend Marine Science Center and Centrum with the  idea of using science and art as an avenue for discovery.
Libby gives insight to wide-eyed campers
Photo by: Al McCleese

To say our days were busy and full would be a staggering understatement; the entire week was a whirlwind of activity, learning and fun!  Mornings were divided between art and science activities.

The science looked something like this-

The group works to assemble the gray whale's vertebrae.
Photo by: Al McCleese

Heather plays the signature calls for orca pods- J,K,L
Photo by: Al McCleese

Baleen in the mouth of PTMSC's gray whale, Spirit. 
Photo by: Al McCleese
Campers were introduced to the whales of the Salish Sea in a class called "Whale Ecology", assembled a whale skeleton during "Gray Whale", listened to orcas and learned about hydrophones during "Sound Underwater", and helped solve some of the mysteries surrounding the death of transient orca CA189 during "Orca Forensics".  CLICK HERE to learn more about CA189 and PTMSC's Orca Project.

The art component allowed campers to create and become art!  Artist Deanna Pindell guided campers through creating black and white drawings of whale bones.  she also reinforced what participants had learned in the Whale Ecology course by covering the room with pictures of whales and letting them create drawings of their own.



















                                                 
                                                              Photos by: Deanna Pindell

Movement/Theater instructor, Christian Swenson, introduced students to the idea of using their original instruments (body and voice).  Participants learned to move in unison as a group without a leader, changing direction and speed.  The groups made up "sea creature yoga", predator/prey skits and created spontaneous sound gardens with their voices.
Campers in motion!
Photo by: Al McCleese

Photo by: Al McCleese
Most afternoons we met in the schoolhouse building and worked on constructing paper mache whales, whale puppets, or both.  I enjoyed  seeing all the creativity that emerged from our time in the schoolhouse.













Photos by: Deanna Pindell

Our first afternoon was spent working on a special once-in-a-lifetime project; each student made a cast of a real orca tooth!  Those of you who are avid blog followers or active with PTMCS's Orca Project may already be aware of how and why this was possible.  For those of you who are less familiar, learn more HERE.  The cast teeth turned out really well and each camper had one to take home with them at the end of the week.
Keeping a steady hand.  Heather helps camper, Noah, pour the teeth casting mix.
Photo by: Al McCleese


The finished product!
Photo by: Al McCleese

 
Each day, we finished our afternoon on the beach.  I thought of this portion of the day as "unstructured creativity time".  Some days campers created sand whales on the beach, other times were spent building and launching "art-barges", creating giant driftwood sculptures, and making up songs.  Everyone seemed t really enjoy our afternoons in the sand and sun.






Photo by: Al McCleese



Evenings were filled with exploration and experimentation.  We visited the marine and natural history exhibits, tried to create a bubble net in a kiddie pool to mimic humpback whale feeding, and played with the hydrophone off the floating dock.  I'm pretty sure none of us had problems falling asleep at the end of each day.

The bubble-netting experiement!
Photo by: Al McCleese

Our last day was spent whale-watching aboard P.S. Express's Glacier Spirit with a stop to visit The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor.  No whales were spotted during the first half of the trip, but spirits remained high.  Our visit to The Whale Museum was a personal Whale Camp highlight for me.  The head education specialist at the museum and a minke whale researcher spent time talking and asking campers to share information they had learned during the week.  I was blown away with all the knowledge they shared.  Members of our group asked insightful and thoughtful questions and I truly believe we all would have been completely content to have spent the whole afternoon at the museum!

Back aboard the boat, campers were advised to watch for clusters of birds.  A group of birds feeding at the surface of the water can indicate that a whale is feeding nearby.  Suddenly, a minke whale was spotted!  We all brimmed over with excitement.

Our last night was spent on the beach laughing and sharing stories around the campfire.  Saturday morning we gathered our works of art and said good-byes.

Five days after Whale Camp one of our campers, Ella, was visiting the Marine Exhibit when a PTMSC staff member mentioned having heard that Whale Camp was really fun.  Ella's reply, "Fun doesn't even describe it.  It was amazing!"

We laughed, learned, and made new friends all while listening, creating, and making discoveries about whales.

I wish you all could have come!

Heather Jones
Orca Project Coordinator

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