It was not a typical day for Albert Einstein Academy’s (AEA) third graders, but it was one they will never forget. Their day started in their Santa Clarita classroom with a lesson by a certified SCUBA diver and ended in sleeping bags by the light of a massive aquarium in Long Beach.
Fifty of the Santa Clarita elementary students, chaperoned by their third-grade teachers and parent volunteers, finished their school day early and departed for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. Drew Wright, who began teaching her third year at the school this fall, said, “The third-grade team proposed the idea of an overnight field trip to administration because we wanted our students to have this enriching experience at the aquarium. For some kids, this was their first time sleeping away from home. It’s exciting.”
Julia Chandler, a second-year member of the third grade-team, said that administration was excited about their proposal. “It may be unconventional for eight year olds to have an overnight school field trip, but we like to propose unconventional ideas. I believe it’s this way of thinking that makes our school unique,” Chandler said. “Our administration and parents support and encourage us to think differently.”
Students arrived at the aquarium with time to spare before the program began, so they enjoyed a snack on the aquarium’s outdoor grassy area. For two hours, the students and their chaperones toured the aquarium at their leisure. Come closing time, the AEA students, teachers and chaperones were the only guests in the aquarium.
The Aquarium of the Pacific offers three themed overnight education options. AEA chose Crazy Creatures from Dusk till Dawn, where kids learned about bioluminescence and triboluminescence through hands-on experiments that both educated and amazed the children. They experienced touch tanks, conducted a black-light tour in one of the aquarium’s galleries, went behind “staff only” doors and fed sea creatures, examined phytoplankton with high-tech microscopes, and ended their activities with a 3-D movie about penguins.
Boys and girls slept in separate galleries in sleeping bags under the dim light of the wall-sized aquariums. While the program extended beyond most kids bedtimes, they were so engaged you would never have known.
The aquarium program included dinner, snacks and breakfast, all with amazing sea life never far from sight.
AEA is a STEAM-based charter school located in Santa Clarita. There are four AEA campuses in Southern California.