Students have a "whale" of a time |

Students have a "whale" of a time

F.T. Norton, Appeal Staff Writer

Accompanied by a pod of Volkswagens decorated as killer whales, a three-story lighthouse and a 25-foot-tall penguin, San Diego’s SeaWorld Adventure Park visited Mark Twain Elementary School Monday to motivate students to read.

“I thought it was wonderful,” said Vice Principal Laura Austin of a 20-minute assembly, in which 129 third graders sat captivated by a presentation that taught them about marine animals and eventually geared them toward reading.

“I’m really pleased (SeaWorld) has this community outreach program and their emphasis was on reading. You could just tell they were really child-centered,” Austin said.

In conjunction with the release of a new book “Haunted Lighthouse” by Goosebumps-series author R.L. Stine and the May premier of a “4-D” movie attraction of the same name, “SeaWorld’s Shamu Across America” tour celebrates “Reading is Fun Month. “

“We enjoy this a great deal,” said Booker T. Crenshaw, public relations coordinator for SeaWorld. “It gives us a good opportunity to bring the fun and excitement of SeaWorld out to the general public.”

Susan Cox, SeaWorld education manager, asked children questions aimed at teaching them little-known facts about marine animals.

“How many of you like to swim with sharks?” she asked the rambunctious students, several of whom raised their hands.

“Did you know sharks have thousands and thousands and thousands of teeth?” she said to the wide-eyed audience.

“Do you know how the killer whale got its name?” she asked.

“Because it eats meat,” one student responded.

“Well, yes, it eats meat, but it’s called a killer whale because it’s the top predator of the entire ocean, and it’s found in every ocean in the world. Did you know that?”

To teach children about the importance of lighthouses, eight students participated in the Lighthouse Keeper game. Children learned how a lighthouse aids navigation and how to read a compass — all under the guise of a Simple-Simon type routine.

Monday’s highlight was when the classes forayed to the front of the school and saw the penguin and lighthouse blowup displays and seven customized Volkswagen Beetles with “killer” paint jobs.

“This is tight!” a third-grade boy exclaimed as he ran his hands along the hood of a car.

The 2001 Beetles have 45-pound tails and 9-pound dorsal fins. One had a blow hole at the top of its windshield that sprayed a light stream of water on the squealing students.

Each child was given a compass, a copy of “The Haunted Lighthouse” and an activity book. The seven third-grade classrooms and library received a complete set of R.L. Stine’s series, “The Nightmare Room.”

“The kids will treasure these books,” Austin said. “Our children will not forget this for a long, long time.”


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