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By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
It's not every day that one can find a whale in Sherborn.
But on Thursday, June 27, parents and kids walked up the steps of the Sherborn Community Center to see Nile the whale and learn all about these giant ocean creatures. With the help of Cynde McInnis, the kids even got the chance to see the inside of a humpback whale.
McInnis began the program with a quick video presentation to introduce the kids to some whale facts. As they listened very carefully, the kids heard different whale sounds from different species. Cynde also gave the kids some background information about these gentle sea giants. “Whales are mammals. What else is a mammal?” she asked.
“Camels!” one child suggested.
“Me!” answered another.
All were correct answers.
Other fun parts of the presentation included a demonstration of how baleen whales eat, how to make sounds like a sperm whale, and how observers tell humpback whales apart. Cynde took time to explain that whales’ tails have distinct markings that can be used to identify them. Nile, for example, is named for the Nile River-shaped marking on the left side of her tail.
Following their quick introduction, the kids were put into groups and were each assigned one of three stations at which to start. One station had the participants examining how trash can affect the ocean. The kids were shown different things that end up in the ocean and had to sort them into how long it would take them to completely break down. “Short” items stayed intact for less than a year, “medium” lasted one to 50 years, and “long” items were present for over 50 years. As they sorted the apples from the fishing line, the paper towels, and the plastic bags, it became clear to the young kids that the ocean needed special care to avoid being destroyed.
At another station, the kids were given the chance to design their own whale tails and name their whales based on the look. Using magic markers to fill in the tails, the kids made rainbow waves, swords, and leaves. “I’m naming it Shrimpy,” observed one child as he continued to color his tail a peach color.
The final and the most exciting station involved an adventure into the life-sized blow-up model of Nile. Inside, the Cynde gave the kids a tour of the different parts of the whale, including its heart, baleen, lungs, and intestines. Cynde also passed around actual whale teeth, baleen, and fish to model what these whales eat. Kids were shocked to learn that the intestines of a whale were the length of a football field, and that a whale’s heart beats significantly slower than that of a human.
In only an hour, the kids learned that whales are beautiful, but sensitive animals who need us to look after the ocean if they are to survive into the future. Some kids even left wanting to know more about whales, one even asking his mom if they could go on a whale watch this summer.
All left with a newfound appreciation for these gentle giants and for Nile, the humpback whale.