Creatures as Teachers
Seaquaria was created by Joachim (Yogi) and Cathy Carolsfeld with valuable support from the community and a network of talented and dedicated educators who believe that fostering an emotional connection between youth and the environment leads to a more sustainable future.
In 1998, a group of elementary school students were left with an empty salmon tank in their classroom. They wondered: could it be used to study a marine ecosystem? The students contacted Cathy and Yogi Carolsfeld to assist with their interest and with supplying the living organisms that would make their ecosystem thrive. These students became the driving force behind setting up and caring for a chilled, saltwater aquarium in their school that housed a number of marine invertebrates and plants found in many coastal marine ecosystems in the Pacific northwest. Six months later the students shared with their community what they had learned about this new ocean ecosystem they had created. Jamie, a grade seven student who had been hesitant to engage in classroom participation, spoke with passion and enthusiasm about a sea squirt, a marine animal for which he had gained a new-found respect. One of the parents sitting in the audience commented, "That can't be right. They're just creatures, not animals!" By the end of the assembly, parents had learned that creatures like the lowly sea squirt were not only animals but also educators. Thanks to the passion and commitment of those grade six and seven students, the teachers, parents and other students began to think about their world in a different way - planting the seed for Seaquaria.
Since its creation Seaquaria has been committed to creating opportunities for youth to discover the beauty and complexity of their world for themselves. Only then can they begin to understand and value their world and take the steps needed to protect it. Through active learning students are involved in discovery through field trips and "place-based learning" that begins in their own classrooms and communities.
How do we know the Seaquaria program is working? Because students are eager to learn and are asking questions about connections in the world around them. These questions are formulated in a logical, scientific manner, often with novel insights. They are finding new ways to share their learning with both local and global communities.
Teachers have found that our programming:
- Fosters empathy in students for nature.
- Promotes observational skills through hands-on learning.
- Inspires out-of- box thinking through novelty and complexity.
- Provides a place for students/educators to explore their own personal interests.
- Provides a "hook"; for students previously reluctant to engage in classroom learning.