NORWALK, CT – In response to the COVID-19 closures, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will be streaming two of its popular educational programs for free each week, while also making a selection of paid marine-science classes available to all area schools.
Students, families and individuals can take part in a virtual “citizen science” class on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., while a story-time program for younger children will go online at 10 a.m. each Friday. Both of the 40-minute live-streaming programs are free but do require advance reservations to receive a needed link.
Additionally, The Maritime Aquarium has adapted its educational programming for schools into live streamable sessions available online to any classroom beginning next week. There are options for students ranging from early childhood through high school.
“With schools doing distance learning, and teachers and parents hungering for ways of inspiring and educating students at home, we have created virtual educational experiences that will bring our animals, our staff and the wonders of Long Island Sound into homes during the time when students cannot visit our facility,” said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium’s director of Education.
The free public programs available starting this week are:
• “Citizen Science” at 4 p.m. each Wednesday (recommended for ages 12 & up): Even while practicing social distancing, there are still opportunities to observe nature during a walk around your yard or even to look out the window for birds, squirrels and other animals. Participants will be introduced to apps like iNaturalist that can be used to record what they see, thereby contributing to scientists’ knowledge of our local environment. Plus, they’ll learn how to identify birds and to contribute information to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project.
• “Fish Tales” at 10 a.m. each Friday (for preschoolers): During this interactive story time, an Aquarium educator will lead young children and their parents/caregivers through songs, rhymes, dances, book readings and maybe even a visit with an animal ambassador. There’s a limit of 20 log-ins per session.
To join in, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org/experience and click on Virtual Programs. Registered participants will receive an emailed link that will “go live” at the designated time.
The Maritime Aquarium has adapted its regular STEM-based, standards-fulfilling educational programming into a selection of online offerings that teachers can use as they implement distance learning. Beginning next week, the programs can be scheduled through the Aquarium’s Reservations department, similar to scheduling an Aquarium visit.
The programs will be streamed live to allow for questions and answers and for adaptations to specific curriculum needs. Naiman said the programs also will be recorded for later viewing; for example, by a student who missed the live stream.
Nine programs are available next week, and others will be added soon, including a “Virtual Plankton Lab” for older students that will stream from aboard the Aquarium’s research vessel.
“I often tell teachers that our goal is for every one of them to see the Aquarium as a true extension of their classroom,” Naiman said. “That statement is heartfelt at all times, but even more so during the current situation, when many teachers are facing the greatest challenge of their careers. We can’t wait to help them to engage and inspire their students through this new platform.”
The programs available next week are: “Fish Tales” for preschoolers and kindergarteners; “Shark Safari” and “Similarities & Differences” for Grades K-2; “Life Between the Tides” and “Water Pollution” for Grades 3-5; and “Sound Ecosystems,” “Meet the Expert,” “Spring into Science” and “Coasts That Shift and Change” for Grades 6-8 and 9-12.
Programs vary in length from 40 to 60 minutes, are for up to 30 students, and cost $60 per presentation. Financial assistance is available for many schools. Teachers can learn more and sign up by going to www.maritimeaquarium.org/experience, and clicking on Distance Learning.
The educational programs are in addition to live Q&As that the Aquarium is offering at 3 p.m. each day on its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/maritime.aquarium. All of these online efforts are being presented because – like other Connecticut attractions and recreational businesses – The Maritime Aquarium is closed to the public through April 30. (The complex system of caring for 3,000+ animals inside the Aquarium continues on a normal daily schedule.)
Learn more about what’s available from The Maritime Aquarium during the COVID-19 crisis on the Aquarium Facebook page and at www.maritimeaquarium.org.