At the Aquatic Academy, there are handouts and required reading (copies of a half-dozen academic papers with titles like “Acceleration of the Contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to Sea-Level Rise” are passed around the room at lectures by Professors Somerville and Rignot). There is homework; there is, most notably, engagement. As Professor Somerville gets deeper into the data on climate change, audience members scribble notes furiously. Gray heads tilt forward in anticipation of his next slide.
In the front row, beaming, is Jerry Schubel, the president and chief executive of the aquarium. The Aquatic Academy is his baby, and it took a while to nurture. Opened in 2003, a year after Dr. Schubel arrived, it was aimed at students and teachers.
The program sputtered until about two years ago, when the decision was made to focus on older adults. It worked. Last year, two four-week “semesters” were offered. One in the spring on extreme weather-related events attracted 34 participants. Another in the fall on how California is addressing ocean-related issues drew 32. Responding to demand, the aquarium added a third, three-week winter session, the one led by Professor Somerville, to a sold-out group of 35.
The academy is part of an effort to transform the Aquarium of the Pacific into a serious adult-learning environment from a destination for school or family day trips. That effort includes a separate series of lectures, with topics as various as the natural history of Long Beach and the yellow-eyed penguins of New Zealand, as well as such cultural events as a production by the Long Beach Ballet called “Guardians” that will be staged in November, described as “inspired by the ocean and the aquarium.”
To read the full article by John Hanc click here.