Community

South Whidbey students to the government: Save the orcas

First- and fourth-grade students at South Whidbey Elementary School show the letters they wrote to state officials urging protection of the orcas. In the front are Brennen Pearson, Haydn Gogan, Coral Caveness and Ani Shauck; in the back row, Emma Anastasi, Sydnee Thompson, Elli Sandberg. Alecsander Lavadans and Callum MacDonald. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
First- and fourth-grade students at South Whidbey Elementary School show the letters they wrote to state officials urging protection of the orcas. In the front are Brennen Pearson, Haydn Gogan, Coral Caveness and Ani Shauck; in the back row, Emma Anastasi, Sydnee Thompson, Elli Sandberg. Alecsander Lavadans and Callum MacDonald.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

Students at South Whidbey Elementary School love orcas and want to make sure they continue to hang around Whidbey Island.

They’ve written to Washington’s Gov. Christine Gregoire and U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, urging them to do all they can to protect the whale that became their school mascot this past year.

“Without orcas, our boat trips would be boring, and the ocean will seem lonely, like living all alone in a big building,” wrote fourth-grader Elli Sandberg.

“Keep our rivers clean, save the salmon, save the orcas!” her letter to Cantwell concluded.

The letters were team-written by Debra Davies’ first-grade students and Carolyn Sundquist’s fourth-grade students, and they urged the public officials to protect the environment and preserve the Chinook salmon, the whale’s main source of food.

“If they don’t have their favorite kinds of food, they won’t eat,” said fourth-grader Sydnee Thompson.

“A chain reaction will happen,” added fourth-grader Alecsander Lavadans in his letter to Cantwell.

“If all the salmon go extinked, so will the orcas, and that’s not good,” wrote first-grader Coral Caveness to Murray.

“Please keep our rivers clean so the salmon can lay eggs. Then the baby salmon can swim to the ocean, and the orcas can eat,” wrote first-grader Brennen Pearson to Cantwell.

“And don’t get sand in the water,” he added later.

Davies said the school project grew out of her passion about the environment, and she wanted the students to discover “the interconnectedness of all things.”

She said the students talked about habitats and the dangers of pollution — “all of it for the well-being of the planet.”

The lessons included class presentations by the Orca Network, Killer Whale Tales and Ranger Patty Anderson of South Whidbey State Park. There also were visits to the school district’s outdoor classroom at Maxwelton Creek.

Several students said they’ve seen orcas personally.

“They poke their heads up and look around,” said first-grader Haydn Gogan. “It’s kinda cool.”

How would they feel if the orcas went away?

“Sad,” said first-grader Coral.

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