Just because Prince Rupert kids are hundreds of kilometres away from the Vancouver Aquarium doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy all the artifacts, live sea creatures and knowledge that comes with it.
Thanks to the Vancouver Aquarium’s mobile education program, AquaVan, Prince Rupert got a taste of the southern city institution’s teachings through the AquaVan educators who visited schools and Northwest Community College (NWCC) last week.
“It’s been wonderful in Prince Rupert,” said Catriona Wilson, manager of the program.
“We’ve been really well-received. We’ve had lots of students making great connections with the ocean that we don’t get in other places because we have lots of ocean right here.”
The 32-foot truck carries live sea creatures such as sea anemones, different species of crab, grant sculpin fish (which is displayed on the side of the AquaVan’s truck), sea urchins, sea snails and hermit crabs.
Sometimes, bigger is better with the younger students, and for them the AquaVan program has a plethora of showcase exhibits that are displayed.
“We do speak to the students about whales. We have a station within our schools where we show them a baleen and killer whale jaw so they can find out more about tooth whales and baleen whales,” said Wilson.
The 21-year-old program tours all of B.C. during the year and even parts of Alberta. The artifacts can change from year to year and new members of the team bring differing perspectives or experience with marine life to the program.
Rupert children are already ahead of the curve, said Wilson.
“A lot of the students that we speak to already know what the animals are, so we don’t have to spend quite as much time talking about whether they’re alive or not. They all know they’re alive and we can spend more time talking about other things that these students might not know and hopefully they can go home and share [that knowledge] with other people,” she added.
Caitlin Birdsall, coordinator of the Vancouver Aquarium’s North Coast Initiative in Prince Rupert, also promoted the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, which helps the Aquarium gather intel on the types of species that call the North Coast home and at what times each is active throughout the year.
“We spent 10 days [over the summer] surveying Chatham Sound and Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance looking at which species were present and where, ” said Birdsall.
North Coast residents can report their sightings of cetaceans and sea turtles at risk by visiting wildwhales.org, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-866-472-9663. A WhaleReport app is also available for iOS and Android phones.