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PWF Education: Year in Review

Submitted by PWF Education Manager Robyn Ehrlich
What has our education team been up to this year? Well, we’ve had another successful year of our tried and true programs: Ocean Camp, Keiki Whalewatch, and now Plastic Pollution Solutions. We’ve also begun to work toward some new additions to our offerings, and have even more exciting things to look forward to in 2020! 

Ocean Camp

During the thirteen weeks of the year we offered our Ocean Camp program, we had a total of over 1,050 campers. Participants learned about and gained appreciation for the ocean through fun, hands-on learning in our classrooms and exciting field trips throughout the island, including two snorkel trips each week on one of our eco-tour vessels.

Keiki Whalewatch

The number of students participating in our Keiki Whalewatch program has continued to increase. In 2019, our program reached a total of 3,253 students, which is an increase of 71% from just three short years ago!  This year was the second year this program has reached students on both Lana’i and Molokai. Participants were introduced to the anatomy, physiology, and behavior of humpback whales through hands-on classroom programs, and through whalewatching adventures our eco-tour vessels.

Plastic Pollution Solutions

This program began in the fall of 2018 in conjunction with the County of Maui and Plastic Ocean Foundation in order to provide our expertise on marine life, ocean health, and the impact of plastic to educators and keiki. We have been able to continue this worthwhile program and expand it, thanks in part to the Atherton Family Foundation, reaching students of all ages. To date, the program has directly reached over 2,050 students in schools throughout Maui County (including Molokai and Lana’i) in 2019. We have created a special version of our Plastic Pollution Solutions program to reach keiki in Australia in 2020!

Life-size Inflatable Humpback Whale

In 2018, our dream of adding a life-sized inflatable humpback whale to our education program offerings became a reality thanks to a donation from Dee at Discover the Depths in Illinois. She created a (larger than) life-size inflatable humpback whale with a group of students in Chicago. After using this whale in education programs for several years, she donated him to us. Unfortunately, being larger than the average life-size of a humpback whale meant we had some trouble fitting him in the indoor spaces in schools here in Hawai‘i. After several attempts, we decided it was time to pass him on to a new home where he could be better utilized.  As I put out a message to other educators, I wondered: who would want a life-size inflatable humpback whale? As it turns out, everyone does! We received responses from formal and informal educators all over the world!  Due to his size and the reality of shipping, we were able to send him to the island of Oahu on one of our boats to be used in education programs there. 

We then set out to have our own customized life-size inflatable humpback whale created! It is modeled after a real humpback whale in our catalog and was named as a part of our online auction. The winning bidder chose the very appropriate name ‘Ohana, Hawaiian for family, in honor of his own beloved family. We can’t wait to share her with students through our Keiki Whalewatch program in 2020! ‘Ohana, the real whale, will be added to our adoption catalog very soon as well.


New ADOPT curriculum

Through our adoption program, you can symbolically adopt marine animals in our catalogs and support our work to protect them. One of our adoption options is a classroom package that provides, among other things, educators marine-animal themed lesson plans for grades K-8. We are updating the curriculum and expanding it to K-12 to reach more students; adding an option to schedule a Skype session with a staff member for a Q&A; creating new activities that incorporate our research and ways to conserve the ocean and individual species; and more!

Incorporating New Technology

After attending a workshop to learn more about ways to use virtual reality and augmented reality in education programs, I am excited to introduce these emerging technologies into our education program offerings. Stay tuned for an exciting virtual reality experience partnership we’ll be sharing in the new year!

Youth Education Specialist Becca Lewis and Education Manager Robyn Ehrlich

We have had the honor of educating people from both near and far about marine life for the past 40 years and look forward to the next decade of making a difference! Visit our Education page for more information on our programs and to learn how you can participate.