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Summer in the Aquatic Nursery

Even though school is out, summer is a busy time in the Aquatic Nursery. Starting at the end of June each year, 20 students participate in the Summer Aquatic Nursery Docent Program. This group of seventh through twelfth graders assembles to spend two months of their summer vacation together as volunteers learning, practicing and teaching ocean science.

“The program is designed to train students on how to interpret science to the public. We focus quite a bit on how to interpret research, as well as local Southern California marine biology,” said CMA Research Curator Kiersten Darrow. “Students gain valuable public speaking experience giving tours to children, where they get to practice finding their voice and how to best convey information in a way that is understandable and engaging.”

With only a brief break from school, students launch into two weeks of training. The first week is orientation, which includes team building exercises, practice speaking in front of each other and learning about the Aquarium. During the second week, students study the scientific method, find out about past research projects, learn basic biology facts, master information about Southern California’s marine life and receive digital photography lessons.

“The training even includes a session on how to care for CMA’s animals, which covers a lot of the information and practices our Aquarists and researchers use on a daily basis. Students build tanks, test water flows and do water quality tests,” said Darrow. “We also train students how to document the health status of animals and record snap shots of how certain animals are doing each day. If they are going to be teaching to school children, then we want to make sure they know their topic inside and out.”

After training, students are ready to dive into helping with the busy summer season by giving morning tours to classes, camps and other groups interested in learning more about marine science in the Aquatic Nursery. In the afternoons, student volunteers continue their summer learning process with fun activities, educational contests and a group research project that lasts all summer.

During the last week, students apply everything they’ve learned throughout the summer by preparing an exhibit. “Students work in groups to design an exhibit incorporating photos they’ve taken, their research results and ideas they have from communicating science to the public,” said Darrow. “On the last day, students present their projects to CMA staff for evaluation. Last summer, some students developed interactive games to better help the public understand difficult concepts, such as how larval fish grow and we were all very impressed.”

Students interested in participating in the Summer Aquatic Nursery Docent Program can download an application from our volunteer page. Applications are available in March each year and due the last Friday in April.

Post Date: Friday, June 28, 2013

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