Thar’ she blows!

About 100 ‘Ele’ele school 6th graders in three classes continue to study the ocean and humpback whales with a recent excursion to the Kaua’i Children’s Discovery Museum and an ocean count Thursday morning from their campus, which overlooks Hanapepe Bay.

‘Ele’ele School is the only Kaua’i school to participate in the four-hour event this year.

Both ‘Ele’ele students and special education sixth graders at Kapa’a Middle School with teacher Lu Salter are recording data and using whale watch-specific tools, making the program a multi-dimensional learning project.

The activities were coordinated by Jean Souza of the NOAA HIHWNMS and co-hosted by the Kaua’i Children’s Discovery Museum.

Protected species specialist David Nichols and marine debris and coral reef specialist Molly Timmers, both of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, traveled from Honolulu to Kaua’i for ‘Ele’ele School’s project.

Timmers developed activities to help analyze marine debris and whale entanglement. Nichols showed kids how rescuers can free whales stuck in debris, which is usually fish nets or line but can include other trash dumped into the ocean.

About three weeks ago, NOAA staff on Kaua’i received training to respond to whale entanglement, and now have equipment on the island.

Last year a whale was entangled at Po’ipu and another was seen dead off Na Pali with netting over its head. Two weeks ago, a fishing line-entangled humpback whale off Maui was rescued, Souza said.

Souza said with trained personnel on Kaua’i, more whales could be rescued. Before this training, staff from other islands would have to travel around the state when an entangled whale was reported.

‘Ele’ele School’s ocean count and excursion were part of a joint project between NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Hawaiian Islands National Humpback Whale Sanctuary and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Kaua’i Children’s Discovery Museum’s current exhibit is called “Journey into the Deep” and features life-size robotic whales.

Other activities included the planetarium show, where students learned about constellations. For example, Cetus “the whale” is visible in the night sky the same time as the whales are in Hawai’i, museum director Robin Mazor said.

The KCDM’s exhibits include natural history, science and technology, culture and art, Mazor said.

Mazor said KCDM has partnered with NOAA since 1996 in the annual Ocean Fair, which includes government agencies, private businesses and non-profits.

“It’s about stewardship, caring for our environment and being more aware, and understanding that what humans do have a consequence, which can be both positive or harmful,” Mazor said.

The 6th annual Kauai Family Ocean Fair at Kilauea Lighthouse is scheduled for March 15, 10-4 p.m.

Molly Timmers and Dave Nichols will be there for interactive lectures and activities. Entertainment includes music from the Papa’a Bay Boys and ‘Ohia Productions “Peril in Paradise” live action show.

The last whale watch of the season is scheduled for the last Saturday in March.

For more information, please call the HIHWNMS at 246-2860 or look on the Web at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov or http://www.kcdm.org

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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