The students at Creekside Elementary School didn't have to travel 20,000 leagues under the sea Thursday to experience life underwater. They just ventured into the Elgin school's gymnasium.
A 50-foot fin whale made by the students out of painter's tarps and packaging tape nearly filled the darkened gym.
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The class of third-graders worked more than three weeks building the life-size whale.
"I think the kids got a whole lot more out of building the whale than sitting at their desks," said Anna Roberts, who along with Donna Yehl, another third-grade teacher, led the project.
The whale, which was inflated at one end by a large blower, was the culmination of a series studying the ecosystem.
"The teachers were patient with us because we had to build part of it in the hallway," Roberts said.
Students started building the project out of construction paper, then plastic garbage bags before moving to painter's tarps. They used four 25-foot pieces of painter's tarp and countless rolls of packaging tape.
Two strings of light were run along the bottom of the whale to light the way for the students.