Dedicated to inspiring future ocean stewards, Pacific Whale Foundation has been engaging the Hawai‘i community with our Keiki Whalewatch program for over 30 years now, encouraging local schoolchildren to learn about the ocean 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 and team heads up the program and says it is a favorite part 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.”
PWF Vessel Staff Supervisor Annelise Cochran reflects on her time so far in the program remarking, “I got to participate in the Molokai Keiki Whale Watches twice last year and personally took out over 1000 kids to see whales. It was incredible to get to offer these kids an experience which otherwise would have been impossible for them. I saw some of the kids really come to life when they got to meet a “real-life marine biologist” and nothing beat the excited squeals of the keiki as whales began to appear around the boat. I got to spend the day inspiring young kids to keep up their scientific dreams and many of them left saying they wanted to be a marine biologist, or scientist one day. The effect we had on their lives was profound for just a few hours on a boat and the community could not have been more grateful. I was shocked at the outpouring of parents bringing us gifts like limes from their backyard or homemade shoyu and bread because they were so grateful that their kids would have an opportunity to broaden their horizons and experience something new and exciting. I think however in many ways it was more inspiring for me than for the kids. I got to watch whole classes of students embrace their culture and sing songs to the whales in Hawaiian. This opportunity became a platform to embrace their culture and to foster more understanding and interest in this next generation. These days are incredible for everyone involved and create a lasting impact on our environment’s future. We could not accomplish them without the support of our community rallying for the keiki and for the whales.”
We are able to continue offering and growing this program with the critical funding provided through our annual Online Auction.
This year’s auction items include gift cards to local businesses, a custom painted surfboard, and several unique experiences, such as a singing whale-o-gram, paint night, private charters, and an opportunity to name a real whale sighted off Maui’s coast and part of our adoption program along with our new life-size educational. Bidding is open between Nov 9-18, 2020 but you can get a sneak peek and pick your favorite goodies at pacificwhale.org/auction. Support the Keiki Whalewatch program while also finding great bargains on the perfect items and/or experiences for you and your loved ones.