Posted on: September 7, 2012

Pacific Whale Foundation Introduces New Marine Education Programmes for Queensland Students


 “Who wants to be turned into a whale?,” asks Merrill Kaufman of a classroom filled with kindergarten students. Giggles erupt, and small hands shoot into the air.  
Selecting one student, Merrill begins to talk about the ways in which whale bodies differ from those of humans. She straps pectoral fins made of cardboard on the student’s arms, as she explains that whales have phalanges, or finger bones, that are nearly identical to those of humans. 
She brings out a piece of actual baleen and demonstrates how it would hang from the student’s upper jaw, in place of teeth. As the transformation occurs, students learn about whale anatomy and physiology through a lesson that’s fun, yet effective.
Since 1980, Pacific Whale Foundation has been offering innovative marine education programs like these to Hawaii students in preschool through secondary school, serving thousands of students each year. Starting this year, the international NGO will be offering similar marine education programs, including whalewatch tours in Hervey Bay, for Queensland school groups. 
Pacific Whale Foundation is no stranger to Hervey Bay. The organisation began studying humpback whales in Australia in 1984, and first came to Hervey Bay in 1988 to conduct field research and provide support to the developing whalewatch ecotourism industry.  Pacific Whale Foundation has returned nearly every year, to study whales and add to its catalog of more than 5,000 individually identified humpback whales. 
This year, Pacific Whale Foundation is launching daily whalewatch tours in Hervey Bay, aboard the 28 metre vessel Explorer, just back from an extensive $2.4 million interior upgrade. The tours will raise funding for Pacific Whale Foundation’s whale research in Australia, as well as fund outreach programs for the local community. 
“I joined Pacific Whale Foundation over 25 years ago as a research intern on North Stradbroke Island and have had the opportunity to come back to Queensland many times to support our research here in Hervey Bay," says Kaufman. "My children have made friends here and we are looking forward to providing educational opportunities for residents and visitors while also supporting local vendors and businesses.”
According to Merrill Kaufman, the vessel Explorer, is spacious and smooth enough to provide a perfect venue for school groups who wish to view the whales. 
“Explorer is safe, comfortable and features wrap-around viewing decks, so that all students will experience a great view of the whales,” says Kaufman. “We also have a children’s area on board, where students can gather and interact with our researchers and Certified Marine Naturalist.” 
Pacific Whale Foundation will offer three program options to teachers and students, each one customized to provide grade-level specific content:
A. Classroom Presentation and Whalewatch Tour
A member of Pacific Whale Foundation’s education or research team will visit the participating classroom prior to the whalewatch tour for a 45 minute interactive presentation. Teachers choose a theme from a range offered by Pacific Whale Foundation. There is no additional charge for this classroom presentation for those classes that are also going on a school group whalewatch tour. The goal is to support the educational objectives of the field excursion experience through the classroom preparation.
B. Whalewatch Tour Only
Tour includes a 4.5 hour excursion into Hervey Bay within Great Sandy Marine Park to view humpback whales, dugong, common dolphin and humpback dolphins, laggerhead sea turtles, seabirds- and maybe even a dingo on the beach of Fraser Island.  The whalewatch tours are guided by a professional marine educator with classroom and field program experience. Students will receive a full-color Jr. Naturalist guide. These tours are offered from August 9 through October 26. They depart Urangan Pier at 0800 and return at 12:30. Teachers and classroom aides go free, per the chaperone requirements defined by Pacific Whale Foundation.  
C. Classroom Presentation Only
A member of Pacific Whale Foundation’s education or research team will visit your classroom for a 45 minute interactive presentation. A range of available themes are available; the staff are also happy to make adjustments to accommodate the classroom curriculum where possible. 
The themes include:
Preschool: Sense-sational Cetaceans
K/1: Mammals Like Me
2/3: Whales and Dolphins 
3/4: Singing and Sonar
5/6: Food for Thought
Secondary: Humpback Mating and Dating
Secondary: Humpback Whales- Interpreting Behaviors
Secondary: Humpback Whales- Anatomy and Physiology
The presentation is free if the class is also going on a whalewatch. 
To book a whalewatch and/or classroom presentation, teachers should be prepared with the age level, student, teacher and adult supervisor counts for your group.  Teachers who will be scheduling a classroom presentation are asked to choose a theme for the classroom presentation.  
Teachers should then phone Pacific Whale Foundation at 61 074194 6851. Teachers will need to provide a credit card number or school PO number at the time of booking.
“Our Student Whalewatch Program on Maui is the highlight of the year for many classrooms," says Merrill Kaufman. "I encourage educators in Hervey Bay to take advantage of this incredible educational value."
"I will be in town in August and look forward to joining local students and teachers out on the water," she says. "Please call us and make arrangements as soon as possible."
To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, please visit