Florida International University's Aquarius Academy: A behind-the-scenes look into the challenges, successes and continual growth of an ocean education and conservation program.

Analisa Duran, Florida International University, Center for Coastal Oceans Research, Miami, FL, United States and Thomas Potts, Florida International University, Aquarius Reef Base, Miami, FL, United States

The Aquarius Academy is an organic ocean learning revolution that capitalizes on Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base – the world’s only undersea research station. The standards-based education program is tailored to provide dynamic and authentic experiences that focus on relevant ocean issues and connects 6th -12th grade students and teachers everywhere through project-based learning.

For students, the Academy empowers them to become scientists and explorers today. This is accomplished through a digital curriculum designed to strengthen core understanding, novel experiential opportunities that charge them with developing and leading marine science projects, interactive events to foster a connection with marine science professionals, and on-location and virtual field trips to spark their inherent sense of wonder.

Teachers are provided with corresponding professional development opportunities such as The Aquarius Teachers Academy, a comprehensive educational training program that includes a series of online modules and culminates in an intensive in-residence course of study in Islamorada, Florida. We have also implemented a Train the Trainer session where teachers can be taught firsthand how to execute our digital curriculum.

The creation of the Aquarius Academy and its continual growth has prompted us to share the successes and challenges of such a diverse and interdisciplinary program. We will discuss platforms used to expand our onboard telecommunications and live video streaming capabilities in order to reach over 1 million students worldwide. We have experienced roadblocks in curriculum development in terms of creating real connections to scientific content and will share how we overcame those. Lastly, we have hosted teachers for week-long experiential workshops to immerse themselves in marine science content and will share how they become inspired to share information with their students. Through this presentation we will share the trials, failures and successes that have enabled us to reach students on a global scale in marine science research and the culmination of the Aquarius Academy.