Somaya Cage, center, reacts to the teeth on a harbor seal skull being passed around her class on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Somaya Cage, center, reacts to the teeth on a harbor seal skull being passed around her class on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Orca Fest connects students to ‘water world’ at Hazelwood Elementary

Ahead of Orca Recovery Day, students participated in aquatic activities in Edmonds. Educators said kids will never forget it.

EDMONDS — When 10-year-old Malia Nymeyer was helping remove trash from the Port of Edmonds with classmates and community volunteers, she was thinking about the sea turtles she swam with on a family trip to Hawaii.

“I think you should clean up the ocean because animals are dying,” Nymeyer said.

On Oct. 8, local scuba divers lifted marine debris near the shore while kids and other volunteers isolated the trash and put back any wildlife. Traffic cones, an iPhone and a cassette tape were among the items pulled from the Salish Sea that day.

The marine cleanup at the port was one of several sea-related activities this week for Hazelwood Elementary School students, leading up to Orca Recovery Day on Oct. 14. Barbara Bromley, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at the school, coordinated the events as part of “Orca Fest.”

Fourth and fifth graders from Hazelwood Elementary School sit in class and learn about orcas on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Fourth and fifth graders from Hazelwood Elementary School sit in class and learn about orcas on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

On Thursday, a life-size replica of a mother orca and her calf, based on the orca Tahlequah— who gained national attention for carrying her dead calf for 17 days — were stationed at the edge of the school field. Bromley’s class participated in a parade around the field with the inflatable orcas, playing percussion instruments and moving the inflatables to simulate them swimming.

A speaker from the Whale Museum gave a presentation on orcas to students, and some of the trash students found at the marine cleanup on Sunday was on display, accompanied by students’ best guesses about how the trash ended up in the sea.

Different items that were found by Hazelwood Elementary fourth and fifth graders during a marine cleanup at the Port of Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Different items that were found by Hazelwood Elementary fourth and fifth graders during a marine cleanup at the Port of Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

In Bromley’s class, where every student has an ocean name like Manta Ray Malia and Killer Whale Kylie, learning about local aquatic life isn’t new.

“I want these kids to have a sense of place on this planet,” Bromley said. “They realize it matters beyond the classroom walls.”

The activities also allowed students to prepare sharing their research about orcas and the Salish Sea, ahead of the Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Summit in January. The event allows K-12 students to present climate and environmental topics to state leaders in Olympia.

Bromley found out Monday that her students had been selected — exciting news after her class last year was invited to present last year, but couldn’t go due to snow.

She wants her students to understand environmental concerns along Edmonds’ waterfront, so students will choose a section of the shoreline and identify some of the key issues there, she said.

Fourth and fifth graders from Hazelwood Elementary School participate in an orca parade at their school on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Fourth and fifth graders from Hazelwood Elementary School participate in an orca parade at their school on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

They’ll “have a message to send to the governor,” Bromley said.

She plans to work with Annie Crawley, a scuba diver and speaker who frequently talks to Bromley’s class. Crawley also helped lead the recent marine cleanup event and captures footage of debris in the Salish Sea, which is then shown to students.

At Orca Fest, with students gazing at the inflatable orcas and eagerly waiting for the chance to prop them up, Crawley said such experiences spark kids’ interest in the natural world.

“The kids are gonna remember this,” Crawley said. “The more connections that we make together, … the more connected we feel to our water world.”

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

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