Shedd Aquarium Takes Students Behind the Scenes with New Digital Learning Program

May 1, 2014

Immersive Learning Program Takes Aquatic Science to Classrooms for a virtual experience with Shedd experts and animals

CHICAGO – Shedd Aquarium, a national leader and industry resource for science education and immersive learning, connects curious minds of students in classrooms across the country with aquarium animals and experts through a new digital learning program, Live From Behind the Scenes. The interactive session invites students to experience a side of the aquarium they wouldn’t see during an on-site field trip, offering rare looks at Shedd’s animal hospital, shark and penguin habitats.

“Our learning experts at Shedd are continually seeking to support science education in the classroom through engaging, integrated experiences and Live From Behind the Scenes does that by connecting students with our animals and experts in a way that no other program does,” said Joy Kubarek-Sandor, vice president of learning. “Education is at the core of the aquarium and we’re constantly keeping a pulse on how students interpret and understand science. This digital program takes the educational experience of a field trip to Shedd beyond the physical walls of the aquarium. Live From Behind the Scenes invites teachers to transform lessons on the pages of textbooks to the real world, while creating a meaningful experience for the students to help them understand and appreciate nature.”

Available to schools across the country, the interactive program features three live, 50-minute video encounters through Web-based software. During the encounters Shedd trainers, veterinarians and animals make a virtual visit to classrooms for the interactive experience. Each of the available three sessions is unique and happens in real time as Shedd’s experts do their daily work — with the students alongside them.

In the Animal Health at Shedd session, a classroom joins a Shedd veterinarian during a routine animal examination in the aquarium’s state-of-the-art animal hospital. Students observe alongside Shedd’s veterinary staff as they interpret X-rays, vital signs and behavior to assess the health of a Shedd animal.

Students learn how Shedd provides an enriching habitat for Magellanic and rockhopper penguins during the Penguins at Shedd session by joining trainers inside the penguin habitat to observe the animals up-close and learn some of the ways they care for the birds. As part of the session, students are also given a creative challenge that demonstrates what they learned about the penguins.

For the Sharks at Shedd session, staff members dispel common myths about sharks and show students how they feed and care for the sharks in the popular Wild Reef exhibit. Students design an identifiable tag for different shark species and calculate how much food Shedd’s sandbar sharks eat.

Not only do the sessions provide students a rare view behind the scenes at Shedd, but they have the opportunity to ask Shedd experts questions about the animals, their habitats and what it takes to have a career in science.

With tailored content for students in third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade, Live From Behind The Scenes welcomes three classrooms of up to 35 students to participate in each session. In advance of the session, Shedd learning specialists work with teachers to test technical resources and ensure the classroom is ready for the virtual visit. Shedd provides teachers with materials designed to sharpen students’ critical thinking, science and math skills through in-class activities conducted during the session as well as family passes for each student to visit the aquarium.

Live From Behind the Scenes is the latest installment in a suite of informal science education programming created by Shedd Learning that centers on digital, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), Next Generation Science Standards and personalized learning.

“Bringing environmental science to life and actively engaging inquisitive minds through applied learning is at the heart of Shedd,” said Shedd President and CEO Ted Beattie. “From afterschool programs and habitat restoration to workshops and animal encounters, Shedd has sought to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. Live From Behind the Scenes represents the next phase in the aquarium’s education journey, creating meaningful memories for students through activities such as watching a Shedd trainer perform a checkup on a penguin or calculating how much food a sandbar shark eats.”

Other programs Shedd offers include the Teen Learning Lab, an innovative space designed to provide students with a free collaborative space to explore environmental interests and conduct scientific research; ROV clubs that provide teachers with materials to help students build their own underwater robots; and online Asian carp curriculum that teaches students about invasive species in the Great Lakes.

For more information on the program and to learn how teachers can sign up, visit the Learning page on Shedd’s website.

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