By Erin McKinney
When studying marine mammals or animal care, the best way to learn isn’t textbooks and lectures, but firsthand experiences.
Thanks to SeaWorld Orlando’s Shamu Training Team, children across the country can now do so without ever leaving their classrooms.
Keeping with their tradition of making educational experiences fun and engaging, SeaWorld Orlando has premiered and tested an innovative new technique to teach children nationwide about animals.
A Skype video call lets students watch a live husbandry session then ask questions of the SeaWorld training team.
This program is spearheaded by Senior Killer Whale Trainer Joe Sanchez, overseen by SeaWorld Orlando’s Curator of Animal Training Kelly Flaherty Clark, and involves the entire Shamu Training Team and the Education and Conservation department.
The program has been tested successfully in a number of schools, ranging from elementary to an introductory level college course in animal behavior.
Joe’s investment in the Skype program is a reflection of his expertise in sharing Killer Whales with the public and is possible through 11 years of working closely with the mammals.
This passion for making connections between the public and animals is shared by every member of the training team, and the video calls take this connection even further. It can work with any age, experience level, or group of people and is limited only by the reach of a WiFi network.
Beyond claiming they have the best care and are committed to education, SeaWorld is taking it a step further and demonstrating it to all who are willing to take a look.
While SeaWorld displays their top-of-the-line zoological care and encourages questions and thoughtfulness, their opposition’s equivalent is more like pumping their quasi-documentary into as many schools as possible.
Showing “Blackfish,” a one-sided film, without a counterpoint or clarifying discussion doesn’t provide students with an intellectual challenge or allow them to draw their own conclusions through critical thinking and research. It tells them WHAT to think, not HOW, and that’s not a good thing at any stage of the educational process.
SeaWorld and other marine parks, zoos, and aquariums are pioneers in animal care and sharing experiences with the public is at the heart of every zoological organization.
The Skype program is an innovation by SeaWorld that helps display their animals as ambassadors and to demonstrate how dedicated SeaWorld and all other zoological organizations are to standing behind their care and mission.
We commend trainer Joe Sanchez, curator Kelly Flaherty Clark and the rest of the dedicated Shamu Training Team and Education and Conservation department, as well as SeaWorld, for creating such an innovative tool to reach hearts and minds with the Shamu family.