Kauai Preschools Visit with Enormous Inflatable Whales

Inflatable whalesTwo enormous inflatable whales visited several Kauai Preschools after “migrating” around the island chain. The visit was part of program offered by the Storybook Theatre of Hawaii as a way to let children get up close and personal with Pacific Humpback Whales. The pair of whales was created in 1997 by renowned artist Evelyn Roth of Festival Arts in Australia, and has been used to educate thousands of children about Pacific Humpback Whales.

This year, Mark Jeffers of Storybook Theatre toured with the whales visiting nearly thirty schools and reaching over 1600 preschoolers, as well as their parents and teachers. The program allows children to crawl inside the whale, breach with the whale, and get spit out by the whale. They experience the enormity of the whale and learn about whale anatomy.

Jeffers plays “Captain Mark” as he guides the children on a fantasy trip around their island before telling stories and singing songs. He says that he likes to challenge the children by asking, “Can whales see the stars?” He does not allow the children to answer this question with words; instead he inspires their imagination by encouraging them to draw a picture of the answer. He is always amazed with what the children are able to come up with.

Jeffers says the presentation is a good match for preschool aged children because they love big movements and big sounds. Being able to explore the whale and see the size of the fins, the tail and even look out of the blowhole is an unforgettable experience for preschool age children.

In a recent interview, Jeffers stated that the best part of the tour was what he learned from the schools and the children and brought home with him. He observed that the schools that emphasized host cultural and family values like malama aina, malama na keiki, etc., had students that were more respectful, more alert and more focused. He noticed that they had a better connection with their community and their environment. He stated that children are the heart of our community yet in many instances, children have lost this connection, and he applauded the schools that have incorporated these important values into their curriculum.

The tour also requires continual fundraising efforts. This year, the tour was funded by the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts with funds provided by the Hawaii State Legislature, the Hau’oli Mau Loa Foundation and the Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children. Jeffers and the crew at Storybook Theatre are hoping that with additional funds, they can continue to make a difference for our ocean resources and perform for thousands more children in the future.

For more information about the Storybook Theatre or the Pacific Humpback Whale Program, you can contact Mark Jeffers via email at director@storybook.org.