The Sitka Sound Science Center focuses on locally relevant research and education. Many teachers are familiar with STEM education – where students explore the links between Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. At SSSC, we are working to show people that the importance of thinking and working across the disciplines goes beyond STEM, to STEAM! STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Starting in March of 2011, killer whales have been an excellent animal to help SSSC teach people using the STEAM framework. Our “Dem Bones” and “Black and White” killer whale projects aim to make science relevant by showing real world connections and how seemingly different disciplines like science and art can come together to make something amazing.
DEM BONES was a project that begin in March 2011 with the report of a dead killer whale washed up on Kruzof Island, near Sitka. Over the following year, SSSC and a number of volunteers and invaluable partners worked to collect, clean, prepare and hang the skeleton for permanent display in the Sitka Sound Science Center. The project involved the Science of biology and anatomy, Technology of scanning equipment and specialized tools for the process, Engineering to ensure the skeleton was hung safely and securely, Art to place the skeleton in a lifelike pose and positions lights to accent the bones, and Mathematics in taking measurements and weights.
The Black and White Project began with another report of a dead killer whale near Sitka, this time a newborn near Yamani Cove in March 2012. Professional artists created a life-size model of the baby killer whale, and brought it and additional casting materials to Sitka Schools to allow art and science students to make their own science multimedia projects. The killer Whale model, named Yamani, now hangs in the aquarium.