Aquarium of the Pacific offers free Summer Kids Club

It may seem odd to refer to the Aquarium of the Pacific’s upcoming Summer Kids Club as “ambitious,” things like kids clubs being fairly ubiquitous during the summer months. But considering the Aquarium is set to offer what amounts to a broadcast channel’s worth of daily programming, divided by grade level and doing it live certainly seems to be taking the bull—or its aquatic approximation—by the horns, fins, whatever, it’s a lot.

How much? The first round of club programming begins Monday, July 27 and runs the week to July 31. The half-hour classes will be offered by Aquarium educational personnel and will be divided up by age/grade levels: pre-K to Kindergarten at 9 a.m.; K-Grade 2 at 10 a.m., Grade 3-5 at 11 a.m. and Grade 6-12 at 1 p.m.

This first session will be repeated from Aug. 10 to 14. A second session will run from August 3 to 7 and repeat Aug. 17 to 21.

The classes will combine the Aquarium’s existing cache of Online Academy classes bundled with take home activities, craft projects and guided explorations of Aquarium exhibit webcams, all of it live, allowing kids to interact with Aquarium educators. All of it free.

“We’ve already been providing the Online Academy since we closed in mid-March, now we’re reframing it, shifting our focus to more of a summer camp feel,” said Erin McCombs, Aquarium Education Supervisor. “In the past, we’d actually have the kids coming through the door every day, of course. So offering this live and kids being able to text us with questions, allows us to stay connected with them in that way.”

The shift in practice has become an increasingly regular occurrence at the Aquarium which has been closed because of the pandemic, re-opened with new guidelines and restrictions, closed again and has now opened portions of its outdoor space to patrons.

Asked if this shift presents a daunting challenge, McCombs said that her staff is used to presenting five hours of material during field trips, so the daily production of two-hours is “really just about the shift to doing it virtually.”

In fact, there are more than a few advantages. As mentioned before, while summer camps in the past have come with a fee, all these classes will be free. What’s more, there is no limit on how many kids can be watching. Since Online Academy has seen its numbers hit the thousands at times, with some viewers tuning in from out of state, it means the Aquarium could reach a lot more kids from a much wider range.

“There are challenges, of course,” McCombs said. “The biggest one is that when we offer in-person classes, it can be very hands-on, so trying to transplant that type of feel to a virtual setting is going to be a challenge. But we’ve got a team of professional educators who have been doing this for years. I’m sure we’ll make it work.”

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way. For more information, click here.

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Steve Lowery began his journalism career at the Los Angeles Times, where he planned to spend his entire career. God, as usual, laughed at his plans and he has since written for the short-lived sports publication The National, the L.A. Daily News, the Press-Telegram, New Times LA, the District and the OC Weekly. He is the Arts & Culture Editor for the Post, overseeing the Hi-lo.