Greater Victoria students study the Salish Sea from a floating classroom

Greater Victoria students study the Salish Sea from a floating classroom

WATCH: How would you like to study, on the sea? Well some lucky students in Greater Victoria are doing just that. From school to a ship, to study the Salish Sea, Kori Sidaway has more on this floating classroom pilot project that has the kids excited about their big blue backyards.

It’s the shoulder season for whale watching off Vancouver Island, but one tour group has decided to do something new with the extra time on their hands.

Eagle Wing Whale Watching, with help from the Greater Victoria School District, has turned one of their custom-made whale watching boats, into a floating classroom.

“It’s so much fun!” said Sham, a Braefoot Elementary student.

Grade 4’s and 5’s from Braefoot Elementary left the classroom today for the coastline — all to learn firsthand about the Salish Sea.”I always tell the kids this is just about connecting you to your big backyard,” said marine biologist Sydney McCabe, who also works with Eagle Wing Whale Watching.

“Every single animal is important to [the ocean]. Whether you’re a tiny plankton you can’t see, or your a big massive beautiful humpback whale.”

This opportunity to study on the Salish Sea was offered lottery style to classes across the Greater Victoria School District for the first time this year.

The program, funded by a mixture of grant money, school’s PAC’s and fundraising, hopes to show a future generation the importance of caring for the deep blue that surrounds Vancouver Island.

“When they have this connection and they have this experience, they’ll be able to understand it a little bit more, and they’ll have the means to protect it,” said McCabe.

“They’re our future generation, and that inspiration can carry them into their future goals or dreams or careers.”

Students spotted eagles, sea lions and seals— stopping even to sample some kelp fresh from the ocean.

“It wasn’t as really as salty as I thought it would be, but it definitely was slimy!” said Riley, a student at Braefoot Elementary.

The three week program is a mixture of classwork and hands-on experience that culminates in a final visit to the Royal B.C. Museum.

And getting on the ocean really brings what they’ve already learned, to life.

“It’s just incredible. They point, they scream, they yell, and I always have to say ‘shh we’re with wildlife!'” said McCabe.

“But some of these kids just haven’t been on a boat before. They just shake with excitement.”

“That’s why I do what I do,” said Aaron Maxwell, Vice Principal of Arbutus Middle School, who helped designed the pilot project.

“Whether it’s just riding in the boat, or getting splashed, or when they first smell a steller sea lion for the first time, it’s pretty amazing.”

This was the last trip out to sea this year for the program, but those running the pilot project hope to expand the program, sustainably, in the years to come.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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