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Students Live a Day in the Life of a Shedd Researcher

Shedd Aquarium's Education Access Program is a fully complimentary, multiple touchpoint field trip experience that extends beyond a one-time connection. Although the field trip was virtual this school year, students and teachers still engaged with aquarium animals and Shedd's learning experts throughout their experience. Supported with complementary interactive curriculum resources and guides, teachers were able to continue the learning in their classrooms after the program was completed.

A classroom of students work individually on laptops.

We have all heard stories from the 2020-2021 school year filled with successes and challenges. This year, with Shedd Aquarium’s Education Access Program— Soundwaves and Dolphin Communication— we have heard inspiring success stories like these ones:

“Thank you... I have learned a lot about animals thanks to you, and I love animals so much, and I want to go there again. It will make me happy cause animals help me feel happy, and I want to feed them, especially the penguins.”

- Fourth Grade Student

“...thank you so much for visiting us. I loved your visit, I think what I loved the most was when [staff] showed us the animals, and I never knew little penguins could be so big, and I never [knew] the belugas head was called a melon it was funny... 😊.”

- Fourth Grade Student

“Seeing the Shedd animals up close during the Virtual Field Trip was awesome. Our families have not been able to visit Shedd in a year (or more), so this was a great reminder that these cool things exist in our city! They also loved the sound bites of the different animals' sound waves...”

- Fourth Grade Teacher
Two white-faced whistling ducks look inquisitively at an iPad as they are live-streamed.

Expanding Impact and Partnerships

Every student deserves equitable access to nature and the aquatic animal world. With support from the Dover Foundation, this school year's program reached 35 classrooms from 15 different Chicago Public Schools on the South and West sides of Chicago, including nearly 1,000 students and 40 classroom teachers. Each student spent 1.5 hours virtually with Shedd educators, meeting animals up close, thinking deeply about the aquatic world and problem-solving a real-world issue facing our world’s oceans and animals.

A screenshot showing an informational page from a dolphin digital activity book.

Innovative and Fun Classroom Tools

At Shedd, we believe that the richest learning experiences start by looking nature in the eye, so we continue to find unique, immersive experiences to spark students’ interest and build knowledge about science, animals, environment and much more. Each student participating in the four-part program received their own digital notebook. The notebook provided students with essential information, reference materials and interactive activities that they used throughout the program. Students used the knowledge they gained from Shedd’s experts throughout the program to complete activities - like labeling sound waves and drawing wave diagrams - both with their teachers and independently. The digital notebook is also where students recorded their final recommendation to a real-world problem and discovered how they can take action to help animals close to home.

A student in a classroom raises his hand.

Bringing the Wonders of the Aquatic World to Classrooms

The experience and learning materials created by Shedd's education team aims to build science literacy, educational persistence and real-life skillsets for career readiness. Through the Education Access Program, students were virtually transported to the aquarium to come face-to-face with dolphins, beluga whales and penguins and beyond through lesson plans, resources and digital notebooks to dive deeper into the aquatic world and increase knowledge about science. The program kicked off with an introductory video chat between classrooms and Shedd’s learning team to begin exploring animals, learning how they communicate, and how scientists study sound in nature. After the video chat, teachers facilitate a Shedd-developed lesson about sound waves that engages students to listen to various animals to experience a wide range of sounds and participate in engaging activities.

A major highlight of the program is the virtual field trip at Shedd Aquarium where students continue exploring sound waves by getting up-close and personal with a variety of animals, including penguins, dolphins and beluga whales. After observing live footage, photos, and videos of animals in their habitats and collecting data, students will use what they’ve learned and the evidence they’ve gathered to develop a solution for a real-world problem.

Students and teachers alike enjoyed this program for its creativity, skillful design and ways it brought the wonders of Shedd to their classrooms. It was critical to remove barriers to look nature in the eye and increase accessibility, which is why the program was designed to meet teachers and learners where they are to seamlessly integrate into the classrooms.

A screenshot of a digital workbook showing a soundwave activity.

“My students really enjoyed learning about ocean animals and the patterns of communication. The activities and games were engaging and helped the students to visually see the learning content. Also, getting to see the penguins and the beluga whales were amazing moments during the visit.”

Fourth Grade Teacher

“The virtual field trip experience last week was wonderful. Our students were excited and were actively engaged. They readily participated in the discussions and added comments to the chat as well.  The prep lesson and support materials were right on point for my class of 4th graders and 3rd graders. Our team of teachers also commented on what a great program that was. Being able to see the animals and ask questions of the presenters was a much-needed experience for our students. It was great to see their excitement!”

Third and Fourth Grade Teacher


  • The Dover logo.