Inflatable whales ‘migrate’ through preschools

HANAPEPE — Two enormous inflatable whales visited several Kaua‘i preschools recently after “migrating” around the island chain.

The visit was part of program offered by the Storybook Theatre of Hawai‘i as a way to let children get up close and personal with Pacific humpback whales.

The pair of inflatable whales was created in 1997 by renowned artist Evelyn Roth of Festival Arts in Australia, and has been used to educate thousands of children about Pacific humpback whales.

 This year, Mark Jeffers of Storybook Theatre toured with the whales, visiting nearly 30 schools and reaching more than 1,600 preschoolers, as well as their parents and teachers.

The program allows children to crawl inside the whale, breach and get “spit out” by the whale. They experienced the enormity of the whale and learned about whale anatomy.

 Jeffers plays “Captain Mark” as he guides the children on a fantasy trip around their island before telling stories and singing songs. Jeffers says he likes to challenge the children by asking, “Can whales see the stars?” and encouraging them to draw a picture of the answer.

 Jeffers says the presentation is a good match for preschool-aged children because they love big movements and big sounds. Being able to explore the whale and see the size of the fins and the tail and to look out of the blowhole is an unforgettable experience for keiki.

 The tour requires continual fundraising efforts. This year, the tour was funded by the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts with funds provided by the state Legislature, the Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation and the Hawai‘i Association for the Education of Young Children. With additional funds, Jeffers and the crew at Storybook Theatre are hoping that they can continue to perform for thousands more children in the future.

 For more information about the Storybook Theatre or the Pacific Humpback Whale Program, contact Jeffers at director@storybook.org.

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