Saturday, January 7, 2012

Singing a Symphony of Whales

"Life is a Symphony, not a sound bite.  Beauty takes wing in its own time."~ Steve Schuch
This week in rading, my 3rd graders read the story "Symphony of Whales" by Steve Schuch.  The story centers around Glashka, a young Alaskan girl who works with her village and the help of a Russian icebreaker to help free trapped beluga whales from a frozen waterway. With the help of music, the whales add in their calls, and are able to find their way through the channel of cut ice to open freedom. Even better, this story is based on the true events of the 1984-1985 winter season where this happened, midst the center of the Cold War, making the event all that much more remarkable during a time of political uncertainty.

In researching some clips of the "songbirds of the sea" (aka, beluga whales), I found some interesting commentary on nature and the environment. Steve Schuch's webpage was one of the premier places for that.  Not only does he consider himself the author of this book, but also the "composer" of the story, as he is a musician as well.  On his webpage, Steve Schuch has a musical clip of himself playing violin with the whales.  Also on the site there is an author's interview about the story, as well as an interesting essay entitled "Reflections on the Arts & the Nature of Education."  In the latter, Schuch shares his philosophy about how the arts open up the sense of wonder in both children and classrooms.  He opens with a quote from environmentalist Rachel Carson.  He ends his essay with this final paragraph:

"The challenges we face in this century will require all the creativity and wisdom we can muster. Global warming, changing politics and economies, learning to bring seemingly limitless appetites into balance with finite ecosystems... all these will require awake and thoughtful citizens. They will require diverse languages and rich vocabularies, both to form relevant questions, and to frame meaningful answers."
Along with sharing Steve Schuch's webpage, I also found the following 2 visuals incredibly helpful (and inspiring) to help bring the story... and environmentalism... to life in my classroom.

The first, from a surprising source:  a Pacific Life Insurance Commercial.

The second,  this video trailer from the upcoming Drew Barrymore movie "Big Miracle" (which has a very similar, true-story-based-storyline as "Symphony of Whales"):

My favorite line from this clip, which is so true: 
"There's ALWAYS something you can do!"

Images from and

Video Clips from and


  1. wow the video are all cool whales are underwater wonders... my kids like the vid..

  2. Thx for taking the time to glad your kids enjoyed the video and you guys could take advantage of my finds! Cheers!