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Landlocked aquatic biology students get opportunity to participate in killer whale check-up at SeaWorld

HIGHLANDS RANCH – While the students at Highlands Ranch High School are more than a thousand miles from any ocean, last week an entire class had the opportunity to care for the orcas, virtually. There was no need for an expensive field trip; they simply connected with trainers at SeaWorld, using videoconferencing.

During the half hour visit, the trainers took Jenny Daily’s aquatic biology class along with them as they conducted a typical health check up of the killer whales at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. They showed them exactly how they take blood and other samples.

“I did not expect that at all,” said Highlands Ranch High School junior Jenna Bach. “I did not expect them to do the urine samples and to have the orcas actually jumping on the scales. It was so cool to see that. They really listen to the trainers when they are asked to do something. It was really awesome to see.”

Daily applied for the opportunity with SeaWorld earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised when her class was chosen.

The opportunity provides an opportunity for the teens to learn about careers associated to their study of aquatic biology.

“It was interesting to hear about a different career that is an option as a high school student going to college,” Bach said.

At the beginning of the class, she wasn’t necessarily interested in a career at SeaWorld, but Friday’s experience might change that.

“I’m really into kinesiology and exercise science, but I’ve always had a passion for animals, aquatic biology and anything with nature, really,” Bach said. “Now, I definitely want to be an awesome whale trainer. That is for sure.”

Bach believes that experiences like this, as well as in-person field trips, like the class’ visit to the Downtown Aquarium, where students got a chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour and learn first-hand about the aquarium’s sand filters, really helps to keep students engaged.

“Everyone finds it a little more exciting when you leave the classroom and you apply [learning] to life. People have such a difficult time in math and science because they always ask the question, ‘when am I ever going to use this?’

Sustainable Learning is about more than technology

The Douglas County School District believes that preparing our students for the future is about more than simply handing them an iPad or a Chromebook.

Don’t get us wrong. DCSD students are doing some amazing things with technology, as explained in this story and the examples below.

The point is that learning is about much more than a tool.

Just like in the 20th Century, where learning wasn’t about a pencil, today’s learning isn’t about a laptop or smartphone. It is what students can do when using them as a tool.

That is why DCSD students may utilize technology as an avenue to demonstrate mastery in 21st Century Skills, including the 4Cs: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication.

This is part of our effort to offer every student a World Class Education. By changing the culture of instruction, we are making learning sustainable and authentic.

Instead of lecturing, in Douglas County, teachers act as guides, encouraging students to own their learning. In this model, teachers are still an essential part of the equation, but they are no longer the all-knowing source of information. Instead teachers prompt discussions with students and assist the students during their learning journey.

Additionally, learning is not limited the way it was in the past—by the extent of a textbook or a teacher-assigned project. Students are encouraged to explore the latest research that is available on the World Wide Web and to create projects that can create change beyond the walls of their classroom. These learning experiences that connect students to the world beyond, often through technology, are far more engaging and relevant to our students than the previous focus on memorization and regurgitation.

That will better prepare our children to compete for the college or career of their choice.

Learn more at

Douglas County Students Test 21st Century Skills with Cutting Edge Technology

Biotechnology Students Speak With World-Renowned Researchers

Rock Canyon Wins National App Contest, Releases 'Caring Hands'

Learning with Legos at Bear Creek Elementary School

Construction at STEM Academy Becomes a Hands On Engineering Assignment

Winning at the International Robot Olympiad

Building a Robot for Reece

Creating Full-Length Movies in Middle School

April 14, 2016 | By rmbarber | Category:

District News

kids running outside as part of a race

DCSD is requesting parent input on the health and wellness of our students. Last year, DCSD received a large planning grant from Colorado Health Foundation in an effort to assess how the district supports students through the lens of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model (WSCC). The mission of this grant is to review the current state of DCSD's student health and wellness program, and then formulate a three to five-year plan based on stakeholders’ needs, the latest research, and best practices. As part of this process, we would like your input.

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glowing purple lights hover over trays of seedlings in a dark room

It may look like a plain, white shipping container was just parked on the backyard grounds of Mountain Vista High School. The contents of the container are anything but plain, though. Walking inside the container, different colors of ambient lighting glow, futuristic-looking equipment and tall towers are suspended from the ceiling, and the humidity level is set to 70 percent. The container has been recycled into a new kind of learning opportunity for students.