Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Kids these days! They’re wearing those tight trousers, listening to the hip hop music, and…teaching Aquarium visitors about invertebrate animals of the Pacific Ocean?! It’s true! I recently spoke with Aquarium staff members Shannon Penna, youth volunteer and internship coordinator, and Sarah Swain, education specialist, who told me all about this unique partnership with St. Anthony High School in Long Beach.
The Marine Science Academy (MSA), which was developed around five years ago, consists of juniors and seniors from St. Anthony High School (Go Saints!) who go through a competitive application process to participate in this two-year honors program. Coursework at the high school includes college-level Advanced Placement classes in biology, chemistry, environmental science, and other topics. Then at the Aquarium, students are trained in marine science topics and taught how to man an interpretation station on the Aquarium floor just like our other education volunteers and how to communicate science information to visitors of all ages.
In the first year of the program students provide interpretation at stations on the floor at the Aquarium. Then in their second year students participate in the QuikSCience Challenge, a science education competition hosted by the University of Southern California’s (USC) Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Quiksilver, Inc. This year’s group of students will be visiting the USC Wrigley Institute at their facility on Catalina Island near Two Harbors. Also in the second year, students design their own interpretation stations, choosing a particular ocean topic for teaching to Aquarium visitors. How cool is that? The students then present their station projects to the incoming class of MSA students and education department staff, who pick the best station. The winning project will become a station for the incoming class in their first year.
MSA students also get the chance to meet the Aquarium’s husbandry staff, including members of the aviculture (bird biology) team, aquarists, and our mammalogy experts. The program is designed to prepare the students to pursue careers in marine or environmental science. Sparking an interest in these fields and helping to mold future scientists are among the Aquarium’s core goals as an educational institution, so it’s great to see this concept in action and provide an opportunity for the kids to see what a job like this actually looks like.
About thirty students are currently participating in the Marine Science Academy. They spend about three hours on the floor at the Aquarium each week. Look for the friendly teens in purple shirts!
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