Friday, July 15, 2022

Whales & Seals Program with UNH Docents

Volunteers from the University of New Hampshire came to the Gordon-Nash to help us learn about marine mammals, specifically whales and seals. These helpers are called docents, and they are specially trained to do their jobs and teach kids about the ocean and its living things.

We began with a story, See What a Seal Can Do by Chris Butterworth. It told the story of seal and how he spends his days, diving, swimming, hunting for food, and resting after his work is done. There were so many surprises in this book - like a seal blows out all his breath before dives into the water, and he can be underwater with a very slow heartbeat for almost fifteen minutes without breathing. Wow!
Then docents led experiments and activities to help us learn about these mammals. At once station, kids put their hands in freezing ice water and noted the skin temperatures on their hands. Then they put on plastic bag gloves filled with solid shortening and tried the ice water again. Amazingly, their hands did not feel the cold and the blubber-like bags kept their skin temperature warm. Whales and seals, who are warm-blooded like we are, have a thick layer of blubber under their skin which helps keep their bodies warm even in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. 
Next we looked at some artifacts and some models of types of whales and seals. There was even a whale vertebrae, like the vertebrae in our own backs but much larger!.

Finally, we went outside to walk along a stretched out 100 foot tape measure. We stopped at various intervals to note the length of some of the marine mammals about which we learned tonight. Can you guess which creature is 100 feet long?

Many thanks to UNH docents Barb Dion, Kipp Freeman, and Marsha Richelli for a most informative and fun ocean mammal program!

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