The Determined Dolphins

Challenged to Learn, Determined to Help

Determined Dolphins in St. LouisIn the 2015 FIRST LEGO League Jr. Challenge, Jr.FLL THINK TANKSM, students were tasked with exploring where and how learning happens. By season’s end, Team 2814, the “Determined Dolphins,” a group of five (then) third-graders from Castle Pines, Colo., learned much more: that learning isn’t enough. Rather, you need to take what you learned and use it to help others, whether it be your fellow teammates, your family, your school, or your community — in this case, the animal community.

“At the beginning of the season, we explored different places that we could learn new things. We all decided, unanimously, on a marine hospital,” said Coach Julie Weiss.

It wasn’t long before the team decided to focus in on dolphins, specifically the reasons why so many of them ended up in marine hospitals. Through research, they learned that a high number of dolphins are accidentally caught in fishing nets each year. So the team set out to explore tools that could help dolphins detect and avoid the nets.

Determined Dolphins at AquariumOne of the ways the team learned more about this topic was visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website and exploring its mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release marine animals. It’s there where the Determined Dolphins were introduced to Winter — the dolphin documented in the motion picture, Dolphin Tale — and her history of being trapped in a fisherman’s crab net and losing her tail. Today, Winter lives a happy life in Clearwater, Fla. with the help of a prosthetic tail.

The team was so touched by Winter’s plight, they turned their project focus to animal prostheses. AND, they each donated their own money to “adopt” Winter — helping to fund her care over the next year.

“To see these young kids so interested in helping at this level was amazing,” Weiss said.

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