LA JOLLA, Cali. (KGTV) -- Southern California students now have access to special virtual programs at Birch Aquarium for free. It is thanks to generous donations that allowed for 600 scholarships.
It's been a while since we've been able to get up close and personal with the beautiful exhibits at La Jolla's Birch Aquarium.
"We know that the school day does not look like it traditionally did so we needed to respond to that," Birch Aquarium's Director of Education, Megan Medley said.
During a normal school year, the aquarium hosts around 54,000 students through its outreach programs, field trips, and camps. The pandemic, unfortunately, canceled all of that. But that doesn't mean the learning has to stop.
"We want to make sure that we could still engage students in science and STEM learning in fun creative ways, and making sure that students still feel a connection to their natural world around them," Medley said.
Since last June, the aquarium pivoted all its educational programs into a virtual format. It began offering summer, after-school, and field trip-like experiences through Zoom.
Students across San Diego and Southern California can now have access to these world-class STEM programs for free, thanks to scholarships sponsored by generous donors, including Price Philanthropies, The Pincus Family Foundation, and the Illumina Corporate Foundation.
"It's 600 programs that we can offer so that's essentially one school group would account for one program with us," Medley said.
Teachers and parents of K-12 students can log onto aquarium.ucsd.edu and sign up for a variety of 30 to 45-minute programs. Courses include programs on sharks, kelp, fish, Q and A with a scientist, and many more.
"We don't want to create any barriers for learning this year, more importantly than ever," Medley said. "So we're making sure that all teachers and parent advocates encourage their schools to apply."
They say it's an opportunity to keep kids engaged, despite challenging times.
"No matter what, science is still an important part of our lives and we should always foster that curiosity," Medley said.
Registration is open for Virtual School Group Programs for the 2020/2021 school year. To apply for the scholarship/financial aid, click HERE.