Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

From Left to Right: Dave, Sonia, Chloe, Libby, Eliza, Jon and Allison.

This morning Jean and I hosted a "brown bag brunch" where volunteers worked together to assemble our Gray Whale skeleton "Spirit". This skeleton will be on display in our exhibit for the rest of the day. Jean and I decided that the alternative name for this Gray Whale class should be "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" This alternative name seems appropriate since 5th grade classes usually work together assembling it with very little help from the teacher. The skeleton fits together nicely...almost like a jigsaw puzzle!

It was fun to watch the volunteers try to figure out the correct position of each bone while bouncing ideas off one another. The children worked well with all the adults and we had the skeleton put together in no time! We still had a small box of mystery bones that only Lee Post would be able to identify! We had to refer to Lee Post's bone building book to make sure we placed all the flipper bones in the proper position.

"Spirit" washed up on the North Shore of the Olympic Peninsula in 1999. He was only 1 1/2 years old when he died. Nearly 20 juvenile Gray Whales died in this area that year. We are not sure why so many died, though it is reported that they were much thinner than usual. PTMSC was notified about this beached whale and contacted NOAA for the rights. Once the paperwork was pushed through, volunteers helped to gather the bones. The bones were hung in a net off our dock for a few months as the flesh decomposed. Later they were moved to a greenhouse where the natural oils within the bones seeped out. The finishing touch involved painting a protective coating over each bone to help keep them from chipping. Although "Spirit" was only a year and a half old when he died, his skeleton is nearly 32 feet long from head to tail! Come to our Natural History Exhibit to check out his skull; study it to see if you can identify where his "soft spot" would have been and where his ear bones are hidden.

Above: Glen, 4 years old, helps to examine the size of each spinal cord hole.

Jon determines the exact order....what a job!

The Dawson Family thinking, "Are these in the correct order?"

All pictures taken by Allison and Jean.

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