Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is launching a new suite of virtual education programming based on the learnings and success of the virtual summer camp program, aimed at providing interactive and student-driven curriculum to help teachers and parents ensure science learning continues in the time of COVID-19. The virtual education suite includes preK-12 programs for student groups, as well as options for caregivers to provide after school activities to individual students.
“Although learning environments might look a lot different this year, the importance of serving schools and our local community hasn’t changed,” said Megan Malaska Medley, director of education. “We are incredibly excited to bring Birch Aquarium to students through our high quality programs this academic year. Converting programs to a virtual platform while capturing the essence of a field trip takes a lot of work, and, as a parent of two, I am incredibly proud of the experience that our team has created.”
Virtual Youth and School Group Programs will be available to groups of students, including schools, homeschool groups, after school programs, and scout groups. Birch Aquarium’s education team adapted their Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned Discovery Lab classes into new 30 and 45-minute virtual opportunities for Pre-K through grade 12 students. The classes are led by an aquarium instructor and are designed to be exploratory and engaging, as they encourage students to ask questions and virtually interact with ocean creatures. These programs are available to schools across the county.
Based on the high demand for Virtual Summer Learning Adventure Camps, Birch Aquarium is also launching a Virtual After School Series. The six-week multi-series will be offered in the fall, winter, and spring for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The series aims to provide those caring for kids at home with fun and educational experiences to fill some of the hours between school and the early evening. Topics and themes will switch seasonally and build upon kids’ curiosity, allowing them to join others in their age group to explore ocean science in novel ways. The Fall 2020 Virtual After School programs will go on sale Sept.14.
“Our new suite of virtual education programs are the perfect opportunity for ocean enthusiasts to go underwater through virtual and hands-on experiences in hopes of engaging with STEM, combating the loss of learning due to COVID, and inspiring a new group of ocean planet protectors,” said Medley.
Though Birch Aquarium is reopening to members and the general public on Sept. 15, the aquarium does not plan to hold in-person education or outreach classes during the fall. The aquarium will continue to monitor state and local recommendations in relation to programming in the winter and spring.