Above: The junior division grades at Major Ballachey Public School made the trek to the Toronto to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

Diving into a Day of Discovery

MONDAY, JAN. 29, 2024


ast summer, Lisa Taylor, a Grade 5 teacher at Major Ballachey Public School in Brantford, noticed a social media post that ignited inspiration for the school year ahead. It was a post by Ripley’s Aquarium, promoting a contest open to educators, inviting them to submit applications to win a free class trip to Toronto to take in the underwater learning experience. The aim was to remove barriers and provide a unique opportunity for learners who might not otherwise have the chance. 

“I thought, ‘why not?’ It’s a long shot, but wouldn’t it be amazing if we were actually picked?” said Taylor, who immediately entered the contest, filling out a questionnaire to provide information about her school, and highlighting what it would mean for her Major B students. “I was floored when last October, I got an email saying we’d been selected!” 

  Ocean conservation efforts
were discussed, and this
sparked a lot of curiosity.
It definitely fostered a culture of leadership with many students taking the initiative to start thinking about ways they could make our world a better place."

Lisa Taylor


The aquarium was going to cover the cost of admission for 35 students and parent/caregiver volunteers, plus significantly subsidize the cost of transportation – major fees when it comes to school trips. When Taylor approached the administrative team at Major B, principal Gail Ash and vice-principal Daniel Johnson, to tell them the good news, inspiration struck again. What if the school could remove further financial barriers and open up this special opportunity to even more learners? 

“We decided to offer the trip to all students in the junior division,” said Taylor, explaining that the school managed to cover additional fees to arrive at a low-cost option so more could take part. “We were able to create an equitable and inclusive opportunity for every student; those that could not afford the trip were not turned away – as a school, we all worked together to make sure everyone who wanted to attend was able to attend.”

Last month, the day arrived, and the junior division of Major B made their way to the big city to take in an out-of-the-classroom experience that reinforced learning, provided new ways to get up close and personal with ocean creatures, and instilled the value of protecting those environments for generations to come. 

“I’m a big fan of field trips – when students are immersed in something firsthand, it allows them to make connections to better understand concepts we’ve been learning about,” said Taylor, who’s been a Grand Erie educator since she began her teaching career in 2009, and at Major B for the past 10 years. “In class, we’d talked about different ways animals camouflage themselves as a protective mechanism, so when students could actually see how the fish blended in with the plants in their environment, it really clicked for them!”

The trip also brought out learners’ leadership qualities and inspired many to continue the learning afterward. 

“At the aquarium, ocean conservation efforts were discussed, and this sparked a lot of curiosity,” added Taylor. “It definitely fostered a culture of leadership with many students taking the initiative to start thinking about ways they could make our world a better place.” 

Learning opportunities like the trip to Ripley’s Aquarium and the efforts by Major Ballachey staff members to make it possible support Grand Erie’s priorities to build a culture of belonging to foster equitable, inclusive and responsive environments for each learner.

Above: Learners immersed themselves in an underwater world of learning.


What Our Learners Had to Say:

I really liked petting the sting rays. They were slimy, but it was so cool. I loved hanging out with my friends and seeing all of the fish and sharks move around."

- Sadie, Grade 5

 It was really fun to go in the tunnel and see the sharks, turtles and sting rays swimming above me. When we got to go behind the scenes, I learned about how they have to isolate the new fish before they go into the big tanks.”

- Charley, Grade 5

 I liked the behind-the-scenes tour. I got to see some technical things and the system of how the aquarium worked.”

- Cohen, Grade 5

I liked seeing the stone fish and the axolotls. I also learned that there was a lot of important stuff behind the scenes that helps the aquarium run.”

- Ryder, Grade 5

 Fish would die if the ocean wasn't clean. The sea turtles, the fish, they all need clean water. Sea animals could eat plastic and die. There is so much plastic in the ocean.”

- Daiqhuan, Grade 5

 Shop wisely, choose sustainable seafood and bring re-usable bags when you shop so you don't harm the animals.” 

- Mallory, Grade 5

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