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Gates Students Attend 30th Anniversary Celebration of Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary

Gates Students celebrate Stellwagen

Last Friday evening, six students from the Gates Environmental Club and the Gates 7/8 Band attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.   They were accompanied by Ms. Chambers, Mr.Lessard and Caitlin Fitzmaurice, who is a Gates and SHS alum and a research assistant at the Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary.stell1-2.jpgCaption: L-R Ms.Chambers, Anne Cote, Madison Muzzi, Michaela Whittaker, Micah Mulder, Noah Kermond and Jacob Simmer in front of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  stell2-2.jpgCaption: L-R Jean Chambers, Caitlin Fitzmaurice and Greg Lessard posing in front of a right whale replica.

New Bedford Whaling Museum- 

Exhibits of Gargantuan Proportions

The Gates students took a brief tour of the New Bedford whaling museum where they came face to face with skeletons of enormous whales.  Standing next to the skeletons of Reyna, a 49 foot right whale and her unborn calf, student Noah Kermond exclaimed “Wow! The baby is longer than I am!”  

Later, the students marveled at the skeleton of a 48 foot sperm whale and discussed Moby Dick.  They agreed that messing with a sperm whale was a losing proposition.  The students then boarded the half scale model of the “Lagoda”, a whaling bark from 1826.  The 89 foot model is the largest ship model in the world.  Noah Kermond was especially impressed by the ship’s bell which he was able to ring.stell3.jpgCaption: L-R Anne Cote, Jacob Simmer, Noah Kermond Maddison Muzzi, Michaela Whittaker, Micah Mulder posing in front of a 48 foot sperm whale skeleton.stell4.jpgCaption: L-R Micah Mulder, Anne Cote, Madison Muzzi, Michaela Whittaker, Noah Kermond and Jacob Simmer on board the Lagoda.

Celebrating with Politicians, Musicians and Whale Poo…Oh My!!

The celebration ceremony was a masterful integration of science, technology, poetry, art and music.  It was an amazing experience that showed the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration.  The NOAA scientists consistently remarked upon the need for the arts to effectively communicate their message.The evening commenced with a proclamation from the Governor and the Massachusetts Statehouse, read by Scituate resident Representative Patrick Kearney.   The proclamation congratulated all of the employees and volunteers at Stellwagen Bank for thirty years of outstanding service.

Members of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra performed an overture composed and conducted by David MacKenzie.  The Gates students were particularly impressed with the musicians.  

Next was the outstanding and amusing poem by Matt Harvey entitled “Praise the Whale.”  This poem masterfully explained the importance of the whale and its poo, which is in part responsible for half of all of the oxygen we breathe.  Michaela Whittaker loved the poem and its message.  She admitted that it challenged her maturity to keep a straight face during its reading.  “I was trying so hard not to laugh out loud!” she said.  You may hear Mr. Harvey reading “Praise the Whale” here: Praise the Whale - poem by Matt Harvey / Hot Poets | Whale and Dolphin Conservation

The Circle of Life

The musicians of the New Bedford Symphony and Maestro MacKenzie presented four melodies representing the shearwater, the humpback whale, plankton and the sand lance.  These melodies were presented as a circle of life in Stellwagen Bank.  Later the melodies were presented as part of Eco-Cycle, a video game where humans affect the melodies positively and negatively through their actions.  

You can hear the music, read more about this fascinating game and play it here: Music | Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary 

Celebrating Stellwagen with Two Musical Premiers

The presentation concluded with the world premiere of “The Evolution of an Ocean Composition” by David MacKenzie.   This four movement piece beautifully explores the interaction of the plankton, sand lance, humpback whale and shearwater in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  The composition is a masterful representation of nature, using classical techniques in a modern manner.  The musicians were outstanding in their performance of the new work.  At the conclusion of the piece, the audience gave an enthusiastic standing ovation to show their appreciation of the music and its performance.

After the performance of “The Evolution of an Ocean Composition”, Mr. Lessard informed the Gates students that they too would soon premiere a composition in honor of Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary.  The new work is called “Salt.” It is named after the most famous humpback whale that visits the waters of Stellwagen Bank.  

The composition follows Salt’s life for one year as she bears a calf off the coast of the Dominican Republic and then introduces her calf to Stellwagen Bank.  The music was written by composer Jacquelyn Hazle.  It was set to premiere in May of 2020, but was indefinitely delayed by the pandemic.  The project was commissioned by Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary and funded by local philanthropists.  The Gates 7/8 Band will premiere the work in the Spring of 2023.

World’s Largest Heart and a Piece of Cake

Before heading home, the Gates students were able to ponder how many middle school students can fit inside a blue whale heart.  The lifesize blue whale heart sculpture is part of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and it is designed for people to crawl inside it, entering through the aorta.  Led by Jacob Simmer, all six of the Gates students easily fit inside the heart sculpture with plenty of room to spare.  The students learned that a blue whale heart circulates 1400 gallons of blood and weighs 600 pounds!stell5.jpgstell6.jpgstell7.jpgCaptions Top to Bottom: A life size replica of a Blue Whale Heart holding the latest posters of Stellwagen Bank Marine National Sanctuary; Five Gates students inside a blue whale heart sculpture; Eighth grader Jacob Simmer looking through the aorta of a blue whale heart.

Jacob Simmer and Ms. Chambers were enthralled by the exhibits in the New Bedford Whaling Museum.  They were inspired to start planning the Environmental Club’s annual Stellwagen Day.  They hope to replicate several of the exhibits for all of the Gates students.  Stellwagen Day is a collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuary.  It is eagerly anticipated each year as the day when a life size humpback whale replica makes its appearance in the Gates cafeteria.stell8.jpgCaption: L-R Jacob Simmer, Anne Cote, Madison Muzzi, Noah Kermond, Micah Mulder and Michaela Whittaker posing in front of a life size replica of a right whale.stell9.jpgCaption: NOAA Research Assistant and Gates Alum Caitlin Fitzmaurice exchanging ideas with 8th grader Noah Kermond in front of a right whale sculpture. 

The evening concluded with the students enjoying slices of a large cake decorated as a whale.  This was an outstanding field trip.  The students learned a lot while having tremendous fun!  Congratulations to Ms. Chambers for her hard work and outstanding effort to lead this field trip!

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