Center School students have whale of a time

May 30, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — The sound of whale calls echoed through the Center School gymnasium on Wednesday, May 24. 

There, Center School Science teacher Ben Squire’s first-grade students had an encounter with a life-size cetacean — an inflatable humpback whale modeled after a real animal named Salt. 

“It’s a life size model so it actually shows them how big this individual would actually be,” said New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance President Carol “Krill” Carson.  “When you go whale watching offshore … you don’t get a good feel for how big, massive [and] enormous they actually are.”

Students got the chance to go inside the whale and see a simplified version of its internal anatomy including its ribs, heart, lungs and esophagus. 

“Grade one [learns] a lot [about] animal and plant adaptations. This goes along perfectly with it” said Squire. “It has a lot of internal organs set up on the inside, the kids sit right down the middle of it — you can fit about 10 or 12 kids in there at a time.”

For seven-year-old Finn Lavin, the coolest part about the inflatable whale was “rolling around when we were inside.”

He added that he learned a lot about the internal organs of a whale and that they have three stomachs. 

This program, funded by the Mattapoisett Cultural Council, was brought to Center School by the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance, who also provided Squire’s class with a Diamondback Terrapin named Peanut.

According to Carson, there’s a lot that students can learn from the inflatable whale including math skills from measuring the 43-foot-long animal, learning about how blubber keeps it warm in icy water, and about its diet. 

“These big animals — a lot of people don’t realize — big whales eat tiny things,” said Carson. “A humpback whale can eat krill but they really like small schooling fish.”

Even though the program was educational, the kids “loved it,” said Squire.