At Rowntree Montessori Schools, we have seen time and again that authentic and meaningful learning happens best when we move outside of the classroom in order to consolidate and complement those teaching and learning moments that happen within. To this end, we work tirelessly to ensure that students have an opportunity to engage with the Ministry curriculum through experiential learning. One such recent trip brought our JK (Junior Kindergarten) and SK (Senior Kindergarten) classes to Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the first and only aquatic facility of its kind in Ontario, which promised a wide selection of quality environmental education programs.
The trip definitely enhanced our students’ learning by giving them real world experiences of concepts taught in class, and allowing them to marvel and appreciate the unique beauty of our world. There were vibrant diagrams, sculptures and models of the various different sea creatures, which taught all of us – students, teachers and parent volunteers alike – how to appreciate, respect, and protect the waters of the world.
The whole trip was truly a treat for the senses, and we were able to get up close and personal with hands-on exhibits. Travelling through the longest underwater viewing tunnel, boasting more than 5.7 million liters of water
and over 100 interactive opportunities, students hung on to our every word as we tried to keep up with the whole host of questions posed. There was a multitude of colours (too many to count!), playful sounds of splashing water, and hands on activities that even included touching a sting ray! The feeding of the sharks with small fish was an interesting illustration of the circle of life, and certainly helped strengthen our appreciation of nature. Beyond simply learning about the 16,000 different aquatic animals of different shapes, sizes, and colours, we also capitalized on the teachable moment to speak to valuing diversity, a recurring dialogue we engage in within the classroom.
In the classroom, we learned about the different bodies of water as part of our Social Studies lesson. So, everyone enjoyed going through nine galleries that featured both saltwater and freshwater environments from different parts of the world including Toronto’s backyard, the Great Lakes Basin. Not to mention Mathematics, which is always an interesting challenge when learning in the classroom; throw sharks into the mix, and learning measurements becomes a totally different experience. How long is a shark? The students looked at diagrams in awe, and one student remembers seeing one shark that was as long as a school bus! “That was so much fun!” exclaimed our students. We are pretty sure that sums up how we all felt after a day of learning at Ripley’s Aquarium.