Shedd Academy is a multi-year initiative to encourage and develop a love of science in high school students, while helping them build real-world skills and develop sustainable solutions for the future.
Shedd is a leading partner with schools in fulfilling STEM curriculum goals and providing enrichment and mentorship resources to students. We go beyond formal curriculum, and our programs grow more immersive as students’ skills develop. We want to help more urban youth connect with nature in ways that enable them to explore, participate, question and uncover the aquatic world.
Would you like to support this program and other Shedd Learning programs like it? Find out how.
Explore Shedd Academy Components
interested in participating?
To inquire about becoming a partner school, please fill out this form.
Shedd Academy Curriculum
The Shedd Academy curriculum enables students to take advantage of all that Shedd has to offer throughout their high school career, with opportunities for engagement that intensify each year. Whether students enter STEM careers or not, we seek to equip this next generation of leaders with science literacy and a mindfulness for conservation. This program in its entirety will meet student learning objectives:
- Nurture broad curiosity about science
- Build knowledge and understanding of society’s impact on our water systems
- Increase knowledge about conservation action, including careers in the field
- Amplify ability to act for the aquatic animal world
- Empower students to feel hopeful about a sustainable future
- Create, expand and positively impact social environmental identity
Shedd Academy in the news
Shedd Academy is committed to being active throughout Chicagoland. Hear what others are saying about this innovative partnership model.
- Shedd Aquarium delivers education, fish to dissect for Southland students — The Daily Southtown (11/10/2020)
- Shedd Academy Press Release
- Shedd Talks Recording — Watch it on YouTube.
What are students and teachers saying about Shedd Academy?
“I loved the opportunity our students had to hear from the different trainers and researchers at the Shedd. I think it was really worthwhile for our students to hear about their different backgrounds and what led them down this career path.”
"I would recommend this to my friends or classmates who are soul searching or confused on what career path they want to take in college or if they just need a sense of direction. I would also like to advise them to go into this program with an open mind because there are so many different routes you can take with Shedd. It isn’t just marine life, it’s also conservation. I mean we discussed Shedd’s priorities of curiosity, compassion, and conservation - so there is so many routes you can take with this internship. I’d highly recommend this to anyone and everyone I see." — Mya N.
“Never stop this program...it is an excellent way to reach groups of students that need to help change the world.”
“The Shedd Internship has allowed CICS Northtown students to learn about aquatic science in a real and engaging way. Students in the internships were able to design their own project for the school, propose the project to stakeholders, and then work to have the project come to life by the end of the year. The Shedd Internship was a once and a lifetime experience for our students that helped prepare them for college and beyond!”
“The Sophomore Career Exploration Day was excellent! It was great to be able to see the aquarium from home and learn about different positions students can pursue at aquariums. Students also told me that they appreciated the diversity of staff and liked how they could see someone that looks like them working there.”
What is Shedd Academy?
While on a field trip to Shedd, students explore animal habitats and make observations about diverse ecosystems. They also engage with animals and Shedd experts to drive their curiosity and compassion around science. Students participate in immersive activities that expose them to scientific concepts, processes and research.
What might a typical visit look like for participants?
Explore (2 sessions, 15 minutes–1 hour each):
- Participate in a guided visit or an independent exploration of the animals and habitats at Shedd.
- Find the colorful, reclusive Mantis Shrimp in the Underwater Beauty special exhibit.
- Meet one of Shedd's resident animals and learn how Shedd staff provide them with the best care.
Experience (2 sessions, 30 minutes each):
- Try out field survey techniques and equipment in Shedd's Learning Labs.
- Dive into the microbiome and learn about the importance of an ecosystem's smallest members.
- Explore the anatomy of an aquatic organism.
- Test out field survey techniques and practice using field equipment in simulated field study scenarios.
- Learn and practice water quality monitoring to determine the health of various bodies of water.
Engage (2 sessions, 30–40 minutes each):
- Visit the Teen Learning Lab and learn about the educational opportunities and resources offered there.
- Learn about Shedd's conservation work with various regional and global conservation efforts and how to participate.
- See animal training techniques in action and observe how animal enrichment is used at Shedd Aquarium during an Animal Spotlight.
- See behind the scenes to better understand the operations of an aquarium and the care and attention given to Shedd's resident animals.
Students engage with potential mentors as they discover the breadth of STEM careers as well as all possible career paths at Shedd.
Sophomore Career Exploration
Career exploration helps teens develop realistic education and career plans aligned with long-term goals. Shedd experts help them discover real-world employment opportunities. Prior models have included: Shedd staff taking part in a school-facilitated career panel and Shedd hosting career discussions in counseling offices based on interest topics.
Career pathways at Shedd include:
- Animal Health, Husbandry and Training
- Business, Marketing and Public Relations
- Conservation, Public Policy and Research
- Exhibit Design and Fabrication
- And more!
Students participate in an elective course focused on freshwater and marine ecosystems. This co-created aquatic science course will help fulfill STEM curriculum requirements while utilizing Shedd’s resources, including a dedicated co-instructor. The class will further student’s academic development through hands-on science in the classroom, at Shedd and in the field.
The Shedd Academy Aquatic Science course is a partnership between Shedd and school-based teachers, designed so that educators have the flexibility to offer it in a variety of formats. This course was designed to align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will analyze the biology and ecology of aquatic systems, as well as their geological and chemical characteristics.
Shedd hosts cohorts of STEM interns to gain exposure to many different Shedd professionals as potential mentors. Interns begin to understand how various fields of aquatic study connect with caring for a living collection and those animals’ counterparts in the wild.
What does an internship through Shedd Academy look like?
Interns create and implement a community conservation project with the guidance of Shedd Aquarium experts - and input from interns from other Shedd Academy schools. They will create a Shedd program in collaboration with the Aquatic Exploration team to be presented in Shedd galleries and/or Teen Learning Lab. Finally, they will share their project and reflection with their community, the Shedd community, fellow teens from Shedd Academy and other Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) organizations.
Freshman–Senior Years Extracurricular Opportunities
Shedd offers additional programs for Shedd Academy teens outside of school (virtual, at Shedd and in nature). Programs are designed to break down barriers to accessing Chicago’s natural environments and allow them to act for nature through conservation stewardship and civic engagement.
What do these experiences look like?
Each month, Shedd’s Teen Workshops focus on a different theme, whether it's an animal, one of Shedd's research programs, or designing a new exhibit at the aquarium. There is currently one in-person and one virtual program focused on the same theme each month.
Shedd’s Teen Nature Days, on the other hand, take students outdoors into Chicagoland’s natural spaces. Through exploration and spending time outside, students can express their passion for the environment.
Teacher Professional Learning Community
There is a Professional Learning Community (PLC) of teachers and Shedd learning staff open to all educators who are offering or planning to offer the Aquatic Science Elective Course. Educators meet with Shedd learning staff and other partner educators (in-person or virtually) to swap ideas, finalize their lesson plans and support each other with teaching strategies.
What can one of these experiences look like?
This community will engage both in-person and virtually throughout the course of the school year, using the in-person sessions to develop and prepare curriculum, as well as familiarize teachers with the resources available through Shedd Aquarium. Virtual sessions will include check-ins with Shedd Academy support staff and a virtual meeting space where PLC teachers can assist each other with questions and supports as they progress through the curriculum. Teachers have written course content together, practiced hands-on-labs including fish dissections, and met with Shedd conservation researchers to better understand their work and how to leverage it in the classroom.
Support our Learning and Community Programs
Looking to increase your impact? Shedd Aquarium members and donors play a critical role in making partnerships like Shedd Academy possible. To learn more about how you can support the aquarium's Learning and Community programs as a member of the Aquarium Council, email [email protected].
To inquire about becoming a partner school, please fill out this form.