Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. V No. 3 July 1996

City Students Seek Corky's Release

By Tom Wachtelhausen

While Corky, the oldest living orca in captivity, swam her monotonous laps around the containment pool at Sea World in San Diego, CA, USA, 8th grade middle students from New Britain, CT, USA, circulated about the classroom cooperatively sharing ideas while preparing final letter drafts in an effort to set her free.

The distance of 3,000 miles was not a factor for these enthusiastic students of Roosevelt Middle School who had learned about Corky's plight from their language arts teacher, Tom Wachtelhausen, a costumed volunteer at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut.

In addition to their letter writing campaign, the 8th grade cluster students constructed a 30 foot banner which was express mailed to the "Free Corky Project" coordinators in San Diego, CA. Each of the 150 student participants signed their name and added their own special messages.

The appreciation and concern for the conservation of whales and other cetaceans were developed and enhanced by their direct involvement in a teacher-prepared, 60-day interdisciplinary learning unit with the core text being an adapted version of Moby Dick. Resources for the unit included video tapes, books, poetry, whale teeth and baleen, and fact sheets from the lending library of Dr. Robbins Barstow, Director Emeritus of Cetacean Society International, Wethersfield, CT. The unit, "Moby, Mystic, and Me," received praise in the school district and was recognized by the Connecticut Department of Education in their 1996 "Celebration of Excellence" competition.

The students of this culturally diverse urban school were treated with a surprise just weeks after their letter writing efforts. An executive officer from the Anheuser-Busch Corp., owner of Sea World, responded in a form letter to each participant thanking them for their efforts and praising them for their concern for Corky and other animals held in captivity. However, to the disappointment of all, Sea World's marine biologists believed that due to Corky's age, immune system, and feeding habits, she would not survive very long in her natural environment. As with Keiko, of Free Willy fame, Corky will remain a captive, but the students of Roosevelt Middle School dream of the day when they sight their first whale on the open ocean; they wish it might be Corky!

Photo of students

Go to next article: Freedom, Justice, and Sabotage or: Table of Contents.

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