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Fourth-Grade Chicago Public School Students to Name Newest Dolphin Calf at Shedd Aquarium This Month

Unique Collaboration Connects Classrooms to Aquatic Animal World Digitally

January 14, 2021

Dolphin Katrl gently nudges her tiny new baby.

Shedd Aquarium and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are joining together to bring 25,000 fourth-grade students an exclusive opportunity to come eye-to-eye with aquatic animals digitally through the naming of the aquarium’s newest Pacific white-sided dolphin calf born in August. Classrooms will not only choose the new name which will be revealed at the beginning of February, but teachers will also have access to additional online STEM resources, standards-aligned curricula, and hands-on activities and experiences to advance environmental learning in a fun way throughout the spring semester.

“As an extension of our mission, engaging partnerships like this connect young learners across Chicago to animals, foster a deeper appreciation for nature and explore their personal role and connection to the natural world,” said Lisa Junkin Lopez, vice president of learning and community at Shedd. “Every birth at the aquarium is significant and a cause for celebration, but no more than those in 2020 which brought much-needed optimism and moments of delight and respite during a difficult year.”

In addition to the naming opportunity, 16 classrooms will participate in a special virtual field trip to the aquarium to meet the dolphin and to speak with the biologists, veterinarians and caretakers who care for the calf. Selected schools were chosen by CPS, Shedd, and Children First Fund, the philanthropic and partnership arm of CPS, in alignment with the district’s new Equity Framework.

“Access to a high-quality science education can open up a world of opportunities for our students, which includes learning about the wonders of aquatic life, animals and the natural world around us,” said CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade. “I want to thank the Shedd Aquarium for providing this unique and hands-on opportunity for our fourth-grade students, who will take great pride in this rare opportunity to name and celebrate the birth of a new dolphin calf."

Students will choose from the following names for the young, female calf, chosen by Shedd’s animal caretakers. Voting will take place in classrooms from Tuesday, Jan. 19 through Friday, Jan. 29.

  • Harmony: for the balance of humans and animals living in harmony on our shared blue planet
  • Rae: for a ray of hope for the future
  • Joy: for the happiness that aquatic animals bring to our guests and team
  • Hope: for optimism and positivity to come
  • Grace: for the simple elegance dolphins display as they move through the water

Students, classrooms, educators, families and learners anywhere can connect with Shedd by accessing its digital online learning center filled with at-home activities, videos, immersive live cam experiences, and more at

About the calf: On Aug. 31, 2020, Katrl (kuh-TREHL) whose name means “to breathe air”, a 33-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin, delivered a calf at around 6:20 a.m. The female dolphin calf has continued to grow, thrive and meet important milestones like surfacing for its first breath, bonding with Katrl, nursing, socializing with the rest of the dolphin pod and much more. The animal care team estimates that she weighs in at 100 pounds, which is a gain of 70 pounds since birth, and is approaching 5 feet long.

About Pacific white-sided dolphins: Found in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean, Pacific white-sided dolphins are distinguished by their black backs, gray sides and white bellies. A suspender-like stripe runs down each side. Nicknamed “lags” after their unwieldy scientific name (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), Pacific white-sided dolphins are known for their amazing aerial abilities and are among the fastest swimmers in the ocean, clocking in at 25 miles per hour.

VISUALS: High resolution photos are available for download:
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez and Sam Cejtin