Live from Behind the Scenes at the Shedd Aquarium
Well, yesterday was a first for me: From the first time I wrote a blog post about my adventures in teaching, I have consistently made at least one post each day I have taught until yesterday. I had one of those days with no spare time from the moment school started until I got home at almost 10 pm after working all day, going to a professional workshop, and attending my graduate class in the evening. So, while I don’t even know if anyone noticed or not, I apologise for missing a post.
Today was a very special day for both me and my class. For me, it marked a very concrete way in which I was able to use not just the information I gained during my summer workshop on Lake Ontario, but also some of the professional networking I made. For those who missed out, you can catch up on my R/V Lake Guardian workshop adventures here. You can also read about our adventures on the official Center for Great Lakes Literacy blog.
During the workshop, I worked with fourteen amazing educators from around the Great Lakes states, including two others from Illinois. One of them, Jen Slivka, is an early learning specialist with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. She put me in touch with Brandon Mullins, another one of the learning specialist, who contacted me about a special outreach program called Live from Behind the Scenes. This workshop gives classrooms access to some of the behind the scenes work at the Shedd Aquarium, along with opportunities to speak with some of the learning specialists and animal handlers on site. Because we were doing a pilot test of one of the workshops, we were able to participate free of charge!
Rather than bringing a class to the aquarium or bringing aquarium staff to the school, we brought them together using some of the marvels of modern technology. Armed with a computer, a webcam, Internet access, and an LCD projector, my class was able to connect with the aquarium staff from the comfort of our classroom!
The workshop lasted about 50 minutes. Students got to watch sharks being fed, learned how much food a shark eats each week and compared it to the amount of food eaten on average by humans, learned about how the aquarium staff cares for the sharks and trains them, shared ideas with staff about ways to track individual sharks, and then got to ask the experts questions! It was an awesome experience! Even though my fourth graders had to sit on the floor for almost an hour, they were all completely engaged and participating! Their questions were well-thought, they were polite and attentive, and they were enthusiastic in their expressions of gratitude for the aquarium staff taking time to visit with them.
A huge thank you to the Shedd Aquarium for creating this wonderful digital learning experience, to Jen and Brandon for helping make this happen, and for Rachel and Nayiri for being our guides!