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Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Stewards

Dedicated to inspiring future ocean stewards, Pacific Whale Foundation has been engaging the Hawaii community with our Keiki Whalewatch program for over 30 years now, encouraging local schoolchildren to learn about our oceans by getting a closer look at whales and other marine animals, each participating onboard our floating classroom vessels, as well as customized classroom lessons.

Education Manager Robyn Elrich heads up the program and says it is one of her favorite parts of the job. “The program provides an opportunity for students to get a face-to-fluke experience with humpback whales. For me, the program provides an opportunity to spend time with students and introduce them to the amazing creatures that spend the winter right here in our own backyard. I begin every program by asking the students this question: who has ever been on a boat to watch whales before? Their responses always remind me why we offer this program; for a majority of students, this is their first experience on a boat to watch whales. The students’ excitement and enthusiasm as they see their very first humpback whale up close is amazing! The experience gives students a new appreciation of humpback whales and ocean ecosystems. It is this awe and appreciation that inspires students to care for the ocean and begin to become ocean stewards.”

The Keiki Whalewatch also offers the option for students to learn about humpback whales through grade-level appropriate, hands-on classroom programs. Our 2019 Keiki Whalewatch season will also include some exciting new additions to our previously offered classroom programs. In 2019, our life-size inflatable humpback whale, Harry, generously donated by Deanna LaSusa-Hotchner of Discover the Depths, will make his debut in Maui schools. This life-size model of a humpback whale, complete with internal anatomy, will not only allow students to truly understand the size of a humpback whale, but also spend time inside a whale! Our neighbors at the Maui Ocean Center have almost completed their new humpback whale exhibit and 3D sphere theater, and have partnered with us to offer these experiences to Keiki Whalewatch program participants.

We offer the Keiki Whalewatch program at a heavily subsidized rate in order to enable access to all Maui County students. One generous PWF donor enabled us to bring the Keiki Whalewatch program to students on the islands of Molokai and Lana’i for the first time ever in January of 2018. We hope to sponsor this program again in 2019 with funds raised by our Online Auction. With over 100 items to choose from, many being donated by local companies, and bids starting well below the retail value, there is something for everyone.

Bidding is open November 10-19 at