STEM Programs Enhance Learning with Technology and Methodology

Caribbean Journey advances STEM programs at TSA with inquiry-based learning, real-time video lessons about marine life to engage participants both on and off site. Corpus Christi, Texas – (May 03, 2017) The Texas State Aquarium (TSA) is paving a unique path for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education programs with inquiry-based learning methods, real-time video technology and immersive exhibits as it prepares to launch its $58 million, 71,000-square foot expansion, Caribbean Journey, on May 13.

TSA’s goal is to lead educators in STEM subject areas and utilize best practices to spark interest among participants in the natural world while fostering exploration, discovery and learning. When Caribbean Journey opens, TSA will formally transition its programs to discovery-based programming and guests will be able to video link to STEM professionals and animals in the field in places like the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

“Education is the cornerstone of TSA’s mission. With the expansion of Caribbean Journey, we’re able to offer students hands-on, interactive learning experiences that encourage them to explore and discover a bigger world,” said Texas State Aquarium Vice President for Education and Conservation Leslie Peart.

With newly implemented methodology, funded by Flint Hills Resources, participants will think and act like scientists, creating questions about the environment and then simultaneously using scientific processes and direct observation to explore marine animals, habitats, coral reefs and more. Further, leaving traditional classrooms behind, the new building will house an open space where students can see the Caribbean and chat with scientists in Mexico live through distance learning – seeing and hearing what’s going on in the field, and then get a different view of that animal or ecosystem in Caribbean Journey.

Real-time video technology also allows participants outside of South Central Texas to experience the Caribbean as if they were on site at TSA. For instance, the aquarium has recently partnered with Laredo Independent School District to bring marine life into the classroom, teaching students about resident animals – such as owls and flamingos – and their natural habitat with real-time sounds, video and inquiry-based discussions with STEM professionals studying in the field. Instead of studying print images in a textbook, students get up close and personal with their favorite animals while mastering new science-based lessons.

“With technology at the forefront of our expansion, Caribbean Journey’s grand opening furthers our team’s ability to bring together best practices and innovation from the fields of education, research and industry to advance STEM education,” said Texas State Aquarium President & CEO Tom Schmid. “In doing so, we’re able to foster a love for marine life among participants both on and off site aquarium grounds.”

Inquiry based teaching methods combined with technology resources will support teaching science in a hands-on way that encourages innovation, critical thinking and having fun. Using an approach of “Do, talk. Do, talk,” students are encouraged to arrive at answers by their own experimentation with inquisitive learning instead of lecture-based approaches. This methodology can go so far as to increase scores on state exams, while instilling confidence to explore future career choices in STEM areas.

“STEM education is power,” said Peart. “Our programs seek to provide educational opportunities to provide under-represented groups with that power – or, a spark of curiosity – that grows through their adulthood and prepares them for exciting careers in the sciences.”