AquaVan brings sea to Vanderhoof

Vancouver Aquarium’s mobile education program brought live animals to Mapes Elementary school on Oct. 14.

An educator from the Vancouver Aquarium’s mobile program taught ocean stewardship with aquatic artifacts and live animals to students from Mapes and W. L. McLeod elementary schools on Oct. 14.

In addition to the occasional moose and other less-talkative wild neighbours, Vanderhoof’s kids got a chance to welcome faraway visitors from the sea last week.

AquaVan, the Vancouver Aquarium’s mobile education program, brought live animals and artifacts to students from Kindergarten to Gr. 6 at Mapes Elementary school on Oct. 14.

At the last stop of its northwest B.C. tour, it is the first time that the aquarium’s mobile program has come to Vanderhoof in the last few years, said AquaVan educator Drew MacDonald.

“We’re very excited to be coming through there, being a land-locked city,” MacDonald said.

“It’s hard for students in Vanderhoof to see what the ocean is like…a long drive to Prince Rupert and Vancouver.”

Bringing along a variety of invertebrates including sea anemones, sea stars, and sea urchins, the program provides students with hands-on experience to learn about ocean stewardship, he added.

“The decisions you make in landlocked areas can affect the outcomes of the oceans, because all rivers and lakes do connect to the ocean eventually,” MacDonald said. “If students can feel like they have a direct connection to these places, they’ll be more inclined to make decisions that are more conservation-based, like stewards of the ocean.”

Mapes Elementary school’s students played host to visitors from W. L. McLeod Elementary as well, with kids-prepared activities before and after the aquatic programs, said Judith Friesen, principal of Mapes Elementary.

“We don’t usually get to host,” Friesen said. “It’s a privilege.”

At a cost of $1,800, the AquaVan was booked last year, she added.

“A lot of kids don’t get to experience the Vancouver Aquarium,” she said.

For Xander Meszarusi, Gr. 1, who has visited the Vancouver Aquarium before, the best part of the event was seeing the animals.

“My favourite animal is the hammerhead shark,” Xander said.