Saturday’s ingredients: three hours of time, 17 kids aged 7-11 years, 96 crayons, six little pallets of paint, brushes, water, textas (markers), coloured pencils, lead pencils art paper, newspaper, rocks, clam shells, driftwood, two optimistic Australians (us), three nervous Californians (Story Lab coordinator Sally Helm and her visiting parents Cathy and Mark), a chapel with nice clean carpet and a life-sized blow up kangaroo.
Yes, it was “Whale Dreams”, our creativity workshop open to Sitka kids, run with Sitka Story Lab. Our plan was to get kids sharing whale stories through art and writing (with some dancing, singing and a bit of yelling thrown in). Crikey the Kangaroo helped establish some ground rules and we taught the kids a few Australian greetings and the bush call “Coo-ee”, (which became a handy form of crowd control).
We began sharing tales and dreams of Migaloo, the famed white humpback, the spirit whale, of Australia. I’d forgotten that the first known human sighting (and photographing) of Migaloo was actually at Byron Bay, back in the early 1990s. And in 2011, a white humpback calf was also spotted – possibly Migaloo’s offspring. The kids were fascinated by Migaloo and happy to get into drawing and painting what would happen in their own dream of Migaloo.
We created an underwater soundscape using rocks, shells, wood and voices (plus a recording of Migaloo himself) and then kids started writing their own Migaloo adventures – when Australia’s white whale travels to Sitka, who does he meet and what do they do? Interspersed with some running games out on the wet spongy lawn (a few went home with muddy pants), some songs, some snacks, and several Crikey rescues when it looked like our inflatable friend might not survive attempts to box with him.
The outcome: great pictures and stories of whales (and some other interesting creatures), two exhausted teachers, three relieved Californians, 14 kids with fluffy kangaroo key rings (only remembered to distribute once they’d started leaving – sorry to those who missed out!), a chapel with nicely cleaned carpet and an intact inflatable kangaroo.
In true Australian form (funny how you turn into an Australian when you leave the shores), Carol and I headed straight to the pub for beer (me), wine (Carol), burgers and fries (both of us) and friendly greetings (Crikey).