At more than 200,000 kilometres, Canada has the longest coastline in the world. Yet most Canadians don’t live anywhere near the Pacific, Atlantic or Arctic oceans.

But that doesn’t mean Canadians in landlocked locales can’t experience these integral aquatic ecosystems and learn about what it takes to protect them. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is committed to ensuring Canadian students from coast to coast to coast have a chance to access our education programs about marine science and conservation.  We’ve introduced new, virtual education programs to allow even more kids to do just that.

Education co-ordinators like Stephanie Chong can present from almost anywhere in the Aquarium.

Education co-ordinators like Stephanie Chong can present from almost anywhere in the Aquarium.

“The ocean is so important that students everywhere in the world should be able to experience it,” says Colin Young, manager of school programs for the Vancouver Aquarium. And now they can. Since June, the Aquarium’s school program co-ordinators have been piloting a virtual classroom experience that let’s students from any location take tours of our galleries and engage with our education team.

“We can be almost anywhere in the Aquarium,” says Young. “It’s the ultimate expression of our outreach programs.”

Outfitted with accessible technology—a laptop and web camera—our co-ordinators can present from almost any vantage point: in front of the belugas, the shark tank, the sea turtles, or elsewhere, to meet specific curricula needs or touch on class units. Using Google Hangouts, a free, cloud-based program, allows students to get a clear view of all the action behind our presenters and ask questions as they arise. Programs are available in French and English.

So far, our virtual learning programs have reached 200 students from B.C. and Alberta, and we hope to have many more pass through our virtual classroom and into our underwater world.

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