Brownies support whales and dolphins

28 July 2017

Whales And Dolphins Brought To Life In The Classroom!

WDC has recently been visiting schools in Wiltshire and South Wales helping children learn about whales and dolphins and their underwater worlds. Do whales have belly buttons? This is one of the brilliant questions we were asked during our lively, hands-on environmental education sessions WDC has designed for schools.  We know that children are eager to know more about whales and dolphins and have enjoyed taking part in our marine-themed games and activities.  And teachers are happy as the WDC sessions are all curriculum-friendly!

Pam talking to children during a school visit.

For those unable to visit the new blue whale skeleton in London’s Natural History Museum, using  30m of blue rope to measure out the true size of a gigantic blue whale in the playground demonstrates just how mind-bogglingly big they really are.… It is then even more amazing to discover that the blue whale, the largest creature on the planet, eats tiny shrimp-like krill, albeit a colossal 4 tonnes of them every day.  

We talk about why whale poo matters! Although whales hunt and feed at various depths in the ocean, they all poo near the surface when they come up for air. Their poo provides essential nutrients (manure!) for microscopic plants (phytoplankton) that live in the sunlit region just below the waves. Phytoplankton depend on these nutrients to grow, thrive and form the foundation of marine food chains and almost all life in the oceans. In other words, our planet needs whales to stay healthy!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to search for food using only sound?  WDC encouraged children to play a game and try hunting like dolphins, using echolocation.  One child wears a blindfold and is the ‘dolphin’ and he or she tries to catch a ‘fish’ using clicks and listening for the echoes.  It becomes more challenging for the dolphin to find enough to eat when noisy boats, played by noisy children, make it difficult to hear echolocation clicks from the fish. Underwater noise pollution is a real problem for whales and dolphins.

During WDC school visits, children have been particularly keen to talk to us about ways they can help reduce threats to whales and dolphins. They are keen to recycle and reduce plastic litter in their own lives and don’t just see these as adult problems. Some have provided ingenious ideas for fishing net designs to stop dolphins being accidentally caught and killed. Most children immediately empathise with the suffering whales and dolphins are forced to endure in captivity so that some people can make a lot of money. They understand that their misery largely stems from confinement in small, bare, echoey tanks and the enforced separation from their families and natural homes. Whales and dolphins need to live in the wild.

WDC will now build on this pilot schools’ project and improve our resources based on the feedback we have received. The demand for environmental education for children in England and Wales far outstrips current affordable opportunities for schools and we believe that environmental outreach visits such as these led by WDC could play an important role in filling that gap.

And to answer the question at the beginning….yes all whales and dolphins have belly buttons – it marks the spot where the umbilical cord connected them to their mother in the womb.  

WDC would like to thank the Ernest Cook Trust and the Oakdale Trust for supporting this important education work in England and Wales.

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