Knox College promotes itself as someplace that offers students "the power of experience." That commitment to student experiences is evident everywhere you go on campus, and especially through the efforts of Nick Gidmark, who brought a 55 foot whale to campus.
The opportunity: The core building of the Umbeck Science and Math Center is undergoing major multi-year renovation that began this school year. This renovation includes a two-story 75 foot long space. Through his summer teaching at Shoals Marine Lab in Maine, Dr. Gidmark was aware of the skeleton of a 55 foot fin whale skeleton sitting outside at the Seacoast Science Center because there was no space large enough for it to be inside. Once Dr. Gidmark explained the great potential the whale had to educate at Knox, the Center agreed to send the whale to Knox.
The Power of Experience: Knox is nationally-ranked, small liberal arts college with a strong sense of community and a frugal midwestern work ethic. The Umbeck core will be under renovation until 2020. There is a lot of work to do to prepare the whale skeleton for display. How better to get that done than by creating a hands-on learning experience for the students that will result in a lasting legacy at the science center?
Starting in the Fall of 2018, faculty and students have dug in. Biology students are studying anatomy of the fin whale, cleaning and preparing the bones for display, and creating 3D models to inform creation of missing bones. Art Professor Andrea Ferrigno is researching cleaning and preservation techniques appropriate to the project, as well as techniques for constructing the missing bones. Theatre Professor Craig Choma is researching lighting techniques that will best display the specimen when it is ready for installation. Throughout this project Knox College students will have the opportunity for meaningful hands-on contributions toward displaying this amazing specimen on campus.
Once the whale is on display with the completion of the Umbeck core in 2020, it will take its place with the other smaller specimens already resident on campus for students to study. I am looking forward to visiting the whale and admiring the contributions of students from all over campus that will contribute to making the whale right at home in this small liberal arts college in the small midwestern city of Galesburg. Students who are interested in doing some hands-on work with this amazing project should take a careful look at Knox College for their collegiate experience. This is a place with a can-do attitude, that respects the variety of talents that each student brings to the table, and can provide the academic training that give students the skills to do great things later in life.
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