Family Day is fast approaching and we have many fun activities in store to celebrate the day — but opportunities to explore marine science as a family last throughout the year.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre is excited to have expanded our volunteer program to include families.

For more than a year, we’ve been fine-tuning our opportunities for youngsters age 10 to 13 to volunteer with a parent or guardian. Each team has the chance to experience several aspects of our Aquarium operations, such as interacting with guests in our exhibits, working with younger children in Clownfish Cove, assisting with way-finding or helping to keep our habitats clean and welcoming.

Max takes a moment at the Vancouver Tourism Awards.

Max takes a moment at the Vancouver Tourism Awards.

It’s a great way for young people to build skills and confidence while learning something new with a parent — but don’t take our word for it. Felisa Fullerton and her son Max, 12, have been volunteering as a pair at Vancouver Aquarium for nearly a year and a half. In that time, they’ve become quite the dynamic duo, even receiving a Vancouver Tourism Award for their outstanding contributions to our visitor experience.

We caught up with Max and Felisa to find out what they like about volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Vancouver Aquarium: What made you get involved with the Aquarium?

Felisa: I had volunteered with the Aquarium in the past. When Max’s school asked Grade 6 students to commit to 10 hours of community service, I thought of the Aquarium right away. I knew it would provide a positive and enriching environment. It was serendipitous that a family program was at that time being considered!

Volunteering is a great chance to build skills and hang out in some of our habitats — like the Amazon.

Volunteering is a great chance to build skills and hang out in some of our habitats — like the Amazon.

VA: Max, what’s your favourite part about volunteering at the Aquarium?

Max: My favourite part of volunteering is learning so much and being able to move around and talk with people about this knowledge. Way better than learning from a book while sitting at a desk!

VA: What are some of the things you’ve learned about marine science in your time as an Aquarium volunteer?

Max: I have visited the Aquarium more than 30 times since starting my position as a volunteer. Each time I go, I absorb new information about marine science. For example, I learned recently that scientists don’t know much at all about the Arctic.

VA: What are some things you’ve learned about yourself in your time as an Aquarium volunteer?

Max: I have learned that I like sharing information. But I’ve kinda always been like that. I like looking at animals and talking with people about what they might be doing.

VA: Why is this an activity you like doing with your mom?

Max: I like volunteering with my mom because I’m not old enough yet to go on my own. She keeps track of the time, and show times, and gets us there, and buys lunch.

VA: Felisa, what do you like about volunteering with Max?

Felisa: I like volunteering with Max because his brain is way better at retaining and recalling details to share with visitors. I lean on his memory often.

VA: How has this experience influenced your relationship with Max?

There are plenty of positions for volunteers of all types.

We couldn’t do the work we do without our valued volunteers.

Felisa: Volunteering with Max influences conversations between us about social skills. It’s not always easy working together. We debrief after every visit about what was great, where we were each our best, and where we were not (and of course we each have a say in what we think those weaknesses and strengths were i.e. “Mom you were too naggy when…,” “Max you didn’t follow protocol when…,” “Wasn’t it cool when we had that conversation with visitors about…”)

VA:  Felisa, what have you learned about yourself in the time you’ve been volunteering?

Felisa: Volunteering better connects me with my son, marine sciences, others who care and are curious about animals, and Stanley Park. I like it all.

VA: Is this an activity you’d recommend for other families? Why?

Felisa: Without hesitation. I recommend this for families who care to learn together. The Aquarium staff and volunteers are supportive, inspired and inspiring. The program is flexible and easy to fit into our schedule.

Drop by the volunteer table at Vancouver Aquarium on Family Day, Feb. 8, to talk to some of our family teams and find out more about applying to volunteer for our upcoming summer season. You can also email us at [email protected] and put “family volunteering” in the subject line.

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