The Warner Brothers’ film is inspired by a true story about the friendship between a boy and Winter, the dolphin he finds entangled in a crab trap. Winter is given new hope when a prosthetics practitioner constructs her a new tail to replace the one that was damaged.
After a field trip to the theater, Saltillo fifth-graders met with a prosthetics expert with inside knowledge of the procedure that saved the film’s star sea animal.
Terry Goin is Area Practice Manager for the North Mississippi offices for Hanger Orthopedic Group, the same company that fashioned the device that allowed the real-life Winter to swim again. Goin is a Certified Prosthetist Orthotist (CPO).
Goin was not involved in making Winter’s tail. He works in Tupelo at Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, while this prosthesis was made by a CPO in Florida. He spoke to the students about the process and taught them more about artificial limbs. He showed them a photo of Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, the two practitioners that invented Winter’s tail. They were pictured with Morgan Freeman, who plays Carroll in the movie.
Goin also brought a Winter Liner, a special plastic wrap that was invented to attached the artificial tail to the dolphin. The stretchable material is now being used for human prostheses for its comfort and flexibility.
“I wanted them to know the definition of prosthesis and the reason that people lose limbs,” Goin said. “I also wanted them to know that smoking is a contributing factor, especially for diabetics.”
Saltillo fifth-grade science and social studies teacher Jill Daniel said the movie and Goin’s visit tie in well with an objective that students must learn about how animals adapt to environments and habitats.
“With the movie coming out, we thought it was appropriate to show them how human actions affect animal adaptation and how dolphins can adapt without a tail,” Daniel said.
Daniel added it is important for students to know more about prostheses.
“So many people have prosthetic legs, and people don’t even know it,” she said. “I hope they realize how important and how involved it is. It is cool how it can work like a human limb.”
Fellow fifth-grade science and social studies teacher Regina Sumner agreed.
“It can reinforce that handicapped individuals are also boys and girls like they are,” she said.
Goin showed the students several examples of prosthetic arms and legs that were made by Hanger.
“I liked the prosthetic arm and how a microchip moves the fingers the way a muscle moves them,” said fifth-grader Dawson Nicholson, 10.
Fifth-grader Carsen Enlow, 10, said she learned about the importance of taking care of her body.
The students did several other lessons involving the movie. They watched a live webcam of the real Winter living at an aquarium in Clearwater, Fla. They also made a diagram identifying the relationship of the dolphin and its body parts.
The lesson could also teach the students about different careers, Sumner said. It introduced them not only to CPOs, but also to marine biologists and those who rehabilitate animals and humans.