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Monterey Bay Aquarium creating new online classes and workshops

monterey bay aquarium learning home

Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is delivering free distance learning in all 50 states, is creating new fall classes and workshops to support teachers during the coronavirus crisis.

Julie Packard, the aquarium’s executive director, announced the news on Twitter: “As the US looks for ways to safely start the new school year, [Monterey Bay Aquarium] is delivering effective distance learning to 25K students in all 50 states – free of charge.

“We’re creating new fall classes and workshops to help support teachers #backtoschool,” she wrote.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the aquarium welcomed more than 100,000 classroom students and teachers every year, free of charge.

Aquarium helps students get #backtoschool

Monterey Bay Aquarium, which won’t host students until 2021, has already launched free online courses that build on its distance learning approaches.

By late June, more than 22,000 students across the US had enrolled in multi-day courses, and enrolment grows daily.

“The pandemic really opened our eyes to the opportunity to bring ocean sciences to inland kids who have never seen the ocean in their lives,” said Rita Bell, VP of Education.

“We already emphasize place-based science, focused on our own backyards. Our backyard is the ocean, but the activities and curriculum we’ve developed can be done anywhere,” added Bell. “It opens a huge opportunity for our teen and teacher programs, too.”

Place-based science with Monterey Bay Aquarium

The courses combine on-screen curriculum with experiences in nature, as aquarium educators guide students via video using materials developed by the education team.

“We prompt them to get away from the screen and do things in the real world: walk outside, look out the window, do something in the kitchen,” said Katy Scott, STEM integration manager.

“We offer options for students with less access to the wild, because we know children don’t all have a backyard at home. We encourage them to do science in a park, on their balcony, out on the sidewalk or just looking out their window.”

Now, the aquarium is reinventing itself for a different future and reimagining how to deliver its programmes amid the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19.

New online classes will roll out in fall 2020

This summer, educators will deliver programmes for those who had signed up for in-person programmes at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The attraction will then build classes to serve the students and teachers who normally visit for free school programmes. These online classes will roll out in fall 2020.

In the future, Monterey Bay Aquarium hopes to collaborate with colleagues at other aquariums, and to expand outside the US.

“A lot of online courses are just videos of lectures,” said Scott. “We do a good job of integrating video to build relationships between students and our online instructors.

“And we include interactives that are engaging for the audience. Over the years, we’ve tested a lot of different approaches.”

Monterey Bay Aquarium recently teamed up with a Smithsonian entomologist for a Twitch Animal Crossing bug field trip livestream.

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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