This marine naturalist has taken a unique approach to whale and ecological education, and hopes to engage the people of Maui during her winters here.
Over the last 15 years, this whale researcher and educator has studied six breeding and feeding grounds, including the Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Harding’s “school of experience” includes being part of a Cascadia Research study called SPLASH, or Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks. SPLASH is one of the largest international collaborative studies of any whale population ever conducted, designed to determine “the abundance, trends, movements and population structure of humpback whales throughout the North Pacific and to examine human impacts on this population.”
With her gannet of knowledge, this whale expert can educate any open mind on a variety of whales, including blue, humpback, orcas, sperm and grey—her favorite. And, she wants to share the depth of her experience with you.
“Maui’s love of the whales is evident, but I think there could be an even stronger alliance to promote awareness and a even bigger spotting network,” said Harding.
Harding has lived an “interesting life at sea,” but after getting burned out from traveling, she started her own group—W.H.A.L.E., or Whale Human Alliance for Life on Earth—as a vehicle to educate youth and more via camps, special events, home-schooling, classes and social gatherings.
Harding’s fun and unique approach concentrates on subjects such as whales’ social dynamics, including an exploration of how they surface together and breathe together—even in competitive pods.
“It helps children understand the meaning of a social bond—it’s not just arbitrary,” she said. “We examine the benefits of these relationships and hope kids use lessons in their lives.”
A certified Waldorf teacher, the intuitive Harding integrates the world of imagination into learning with metaphors and stories—very hands-on education. “The most important thing isn’t that they know the facts, but that they end up with a sense of connection to the whales.”
She has led classes at Huelo’s Roots School, Haleakalā Waldorf School and home-school sessions. She recently held a keiki camp that included a whale watch and array of activities involving underwater topography and more.
Harding is an “all-ages” educator, and holds grownup gatherings called “Whaledreamers,” and is seeking to incorporate elders as guest speakers to share their “whale tales.”
She will be on Maui through the end of March, but will migrate back next winter to continue her work. Take the time to experience this fascinating lady’s perspective.