I recently ran into a former student, one of my first graders from long ago who is now college age! These are always delightful encounters, but this one was particularly special. As we stood in the middle of the store, talking and filling in the blanks between 1st grade and now, Jesse remarked that she had loved 1st grade because of the whales. She was referring to my whale unit, a reading/writing unit I developed during my first year of teaching, and which was a yearly favorite with my classes for the next 5 years.
As part of that unit, my students collected aluminum cans and raised enough money to “adopt” a baby Orca. Whale adoption was (and still is) a fund-raising program through the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, to support research on the resident orca pods of the Northwest. The whale we chose to adopt was named “Oreo” (or J-22). Each of my classes for the next few years (including Jesse’s 1st grade class), raised enough money to renew the adoption for another year.
I hadn’t checked up on Oreo in many years, so after talking with Jesse, I decided to see what I could find out about her! It didn’t take long to find that the adoption program and research is still going strong, and that Oreo, whom I always think of as a happy, frolicking youngster, is now a mother of two young orcas, “Doublestuf” (J-34), born in 1997, and “Cookie” (J-38), born in 2002. I’m an Orca Grammy!!
Whales are so interesting to learn about, and Orcas are particularly fascinating. They are highly intelligent, and have an intricate social structure. An orca pod is “an extended family containing maternal groups composed of mothers and their offspring. Some of these family units may have as many as four generations traveling together.”
I’ve been lucky enough to see these amazing creatures on a number of occasions, and each time was an absolute thrill. If you’re interested in learning more about them, there’s lots of good information available now online, especially about the resident orca pods of the Northwest. Perhaps you’d be interested in adopting a baby orca and eventually becoming an Orca grandparent, too?
Where to start:
The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, WA
Orcinus Orca Collective (a very nice Orca blog)