FAQ for Virtual Youth and School Group Programs

Virtual Youth and School Group Program FAQ

We are excited to bring your students to the aquarium, virtually. We hope that the answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below are helpful as you prepare to participate in a program with us. If you don’t find the answers you need here, please email us at birchaquariumprograms@ucsd.edu.

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How do I register for a program?
You may register through our online booking system by logging into your school’s account here. Reservations can also be made by contacting our Visitor Services office via email: birchaquariumprogram@ucsd.edu.
Reservations are required at least two (2) weeks in advance and are on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend that you register as soon as possible to ensure a visit on the date of your choice.

What virtual programs do you offer?
We offer many of the same Discovery Lab titles you have come to enjoy at Birch Aquarium in our new virtual format. We have even added 2 new types of programs: Animal Encounters and Ask a Naturalist. These virtual programs are for students in preK-12th grade. You can view titles and descriptions here and our virtual programs are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. 

What if I do not see a program that meets my needs?
We would like to hear from you! Please email us (link to birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu) to tell us more about what you are looking for and we will respond within 5-7 business days. Please provide at least 4 weeks time before your desired date and note that custom programming is subject to availability and may incur additional fees. 

When do you offer programs?
We offer programs Monday through Friday from September 14, 2020 - June 11, 2021, excluding holidays. Our programs start on the hour and are available at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.,  2 p.m., and 3 p.m. All times are Pacific Time. Most of our programs are 45 minutes long; our Ask a Naturalist and Animal Encounters programs are 30 minutes in duration. If you do not see a time that works for your group, please email birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu to let us know what times might work for you, and we will get back to you within 5-7 business days. 

What if I don’t know my final number of students?
That is okay! We understand that students get sick, move, don’t show up, etc. Our virtual school programs are priced by session, not by student.  As long as you remain within the maximum number of students per program, you do not need to make changes to your order.   

What if I have too many students for a lab?
We do have a maximum number of students that are allowed per program. We ask that you please be respectful of those allotted numbers. Once we start going over maximum class sizes, the labs become less interactive and engaging for students. We are more than willing to try to accommodate your class sizes with multiple labs. Contact us at birchaquariumprogram@ucsd.edu to discuss how we can accommodate you and your classes. 

Can I book a class not in my grade range?
Our Discovery Labs are specifically designed to follow the standards of each grade level and take into account the social, emotional, and physical development of students at a given age. Typically, we ask that you select labs that are within your class’s grade range, but some are flexible. If you are looking for a program to serve students in multiple grades, please use the chart below to help you. We are also happy to talk to you about your group’s needs. Please contact us via email at birchaquariumprogram@ucsd.edu.

If your school or group is looking for programs to serve broader age ranges, we suggest the following:
Grades K-12

  • Animal Encounters
  • Ask a Naturalist:Aquarium 101

Grades K-4

  • Tide Pool Treasures

Grades K-6

  • Sensational Sharks
  • Creatures of the Kelp

Grade 3-8

  • Sensational Sharks
  • Ask a Naturalist: Stories Behind the Tanks
  • Ask a Naturalist: Protecting our Ocean Planet

Grades 6-12

  • Shark Science
  • Ask a Naturalist: Stories Behind the Tanks
  • Ask a Naturalist: Protecting our Ocean Planet

Program Confirmation

How will I know my program has been successfully booked?
Once you have completed the registration process, you should receive a confirmation email. This email ensures that your program is booked. If you did not receive an email, it could be because of a few different reasons:

  • The email went to your spam folder (sometimes they like to do that, so check there first).
  • The email address was entered incorrectly.
  • The registration process was not fully completed. If you have checked your spam folder and you do not have an email from birchaquariumprograms@ucsd.edu, then please email us at birchaquariumprograms@ucsd.edu or call 858-534-7336.

How do I receive a full refund?
In order to receive a full refund, you must cancel your order at least 3 weeks prior to the date of your program. Anything cancelled within 3 weeks of but more than 2 business days before your program will have a fee of $50 per program. If you need to cancel your program date within 2 business days of your reservation, you will be responsible for the full cost of the program. Please email us at birchaquriumprogram@ucsd.edu if you have questions. 

When will we receive our program links?
You will receive important connection information from birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu 2 weeks in advance of your program. This information will include your link and password.  

If the school needs to host the virtual program, we will ask the teacher to provide a link to join your class a minimum of 2 weeks in advance. Please send this information to  birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu

Are there other resources I can utilize to help my class get ready for the program?
Birch Aquarium Education Department will send you additional materials for your students with the connection information. This will include lessons you can complete before your program, as well as copies of any references that might be helpful during the lab.  

Change or Cancellation of Programs

How do I change a scheduled program?
Please email birchaquariumprogram@ucsd.edu at least 3 weeks in advance of your program date. If you send an email, keep in mind that your program will not officially be changed until you receive confirmation of the changed program.
Programs changed within 3 weeks of the program date will be charged a fee of $25 per program. No refunds are provided within 2 business days of your program date and you will be responsible for full payment.

How do I cancel a reservation?
Please email birchaquariumprogram@ucsd.edu at least 3 weeks in advance of your program date. If you send an email, keep in mind that your program will not officially be changed until you talk to someone in the office.
In order to receive a full refund, you must cancel your order at least 3 weeks prior to the date of your program. Anything cancelled less than 3 weeks before your program will have a fee of $50 per program. No refunds are provided within 2 business days of your program date and you will be responsible for full payment.

What if I am late to a program?
If your group is less than 15 minutes late, we will work to modify your program to fit it into your scheduled time slot. Unfortunately, if your group is more than 15 minutes late, we will attempt to reschedule you to another time and/or date less a $25 fee, but cannot guarantee an alternate date/time. If we cannot find an alternate date/time, you will be responsible for the full cost of the program.


How and when do I pay?
You can pay for your program via: purchase order (PO), credit card, or check. At the time of booking online, you may pay with a credit card or  simply choose “Payment Pending (Cash, Check, PO)” in the webstore payment page to secure your program(s). Purchase orders should be sent by email, credit card payments may be made over the phone, and checks can be mailed. For our virtual programs, payment is due at least three (3) business days before your program date. 

Who do I make the check out to?
Please make all checks out to UC Regents.

Where do I send the check?
You can mail the check to:
Attn: Birch Aquarium at Scripps
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code #0207
La Jolla, CA 92093-0207

Where do I send my purchase order?
Email your purchase order to birchaquariumprograms@ucsd.edu.

What address do I use on the billing page?
Please use your school's address in the billing information.

Financial Aid

How do I get financial aid for my program?
Schools with the ability to show need can apply for financial aid through the scholarship application (link) on our website. Please include if you are a Title 1 school in your application. If you have been approved for financial aid through scholarship, you will be notified via email with next steps to accept the aid and move forward with the reservation process. The prices will not be adjusted if you book online.

Financial aid scholarships will cover the entirety of the program cost. Scholarship funds are limited, and as it is our goal to serve and not turn anyone away due to financial barriers, we ask that if you are unable to use the scholarship that you let us know so we may serve others.            

Teacher and Chaperone Policy

While we may be on separate screens, we do ask that the classroom teacher participate in all virtual programs. We appreciate your help to ensure that all students are able to get as much from the program as possible. If students are learning from home, we also welcome parents who can help students should they need assistance.  

For our homeschool collective students participating in the program, we ask for a group leader to be present or for a caregiver to join with each student. 

There is no additional cost for the chaperones in our virtual programs. 

Technical Requirements

What are the technical requirements for a virtual program?
We want to ensure that we can see and hear your students and that you are able to see and hear us throughout the program. You will need a device that has a monitor, microphone, and camera. You will also need to ensure that your device can connect to Zoom (see below for additional details about this platform).  

To support virtual learning arrangements as well as social distancing in the classroom, you may also choose to have each student join on their own screen. If this is the case, please be sure that each student’s device has a camera, microphone, and screen. Additionally, it may be helpful if students have headphones so that there is not audio interference if there are multiple students in the same room.  

We encourage students to remain on camera as much as possible during the program, though we understand that situations may arise where students want or need to turn off their camera.  We also have virtual backgrounds available here (https://sio.photoshelter.com/galleries/C0000W5rT1umG_0U/G0000sVAmaRDhZo… ) if students want to join us at the aquarium for the day. 

How should I set up my room?
If you have already returned to your school site, you may set your room up in any way that works for you as long as we can see and hear all of your students.  

If students are participating in virtual learning from home, they are free to participate in the program from wherever they usually participate in class. 

Who will host the program?
We are able to host the programs but understand that some districts require classroom teachers to host guests. We can accommodate either of these scenarios.  Our preferred platform is Zoom but we are also able to use Google Meet. Please indicate your platform preference when registering. If your needs change after you have registered, please contact birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu as soon as possible.

If you are hosting our team, we will need the ability, at the minimum,  to do the following during the program:
Share our screen
Allow for us to connect to your classroom with two screens
Assist instructors with muting and unmuting students

As a reminder, regardless of host or platform, a teacher or adult from the group is required to be visible for the entirety of the program. 

When will we receive our program links?
If Birch Aquarium is hosting your program: 
You will receive important connection information from birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu a minimum of 2 weeks in advance of your program.  This information will include your link and password.  

If your school is hosting your program:
If the school is hosting the virtual program, we will ask the teacher/leader to provide a link to join your group a minimum of 2 weeks in advance. Please send this information to birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu.

Can we test the connection before the program?
If you wish to test the connection with the aquarium prior to your program, please let us know when you receive your program materials.  You will be contacted by a member of the Education team to set up a time to test the connection. Instructions for testing your device’s Zoom capabilities are found below.  

How to test your Zoom software
If you would like to test your Zoom software prior to your program please follow the instructions below:

  1. Go to zoom.us
  2. Scroll to the bottom and under “support” click “test Zoom”
  3. It will ask you to join a meeting, click “join” and make sure to disable any pop up blockers
  4. Allow Zoom to open when a pop up window opens
  5. Join the meeting with video and audio. 

Using Zoom
If joining Zoom from the link provided by the aquarium:

  1. Open a browser window.
  2. Enter the link provided to you in the email from birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu.
  3. If prompted, enter your name as to be displayed during the meeting (Mrs. Smith’s class, Mr. Jones)
  4. Click “join.”
  5. When the dialog box opens, select “Join with computer audio.”
  6. You may be placed into a waiting room, prior to the start of your program.  The Instructors will let you into the room when the program is ready to begin. 

Safety and Privacy

How are we keeping your students safe online?
We are instituting practices to keep your students safe.  
The teacher or group leader must be on the screen at all times. 
We have disabled the private chat features.
We will have at least 2 instructors involved in programs.  
We utilize unique links for all of our programs. 

Where can I find information about COPPA?
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age. Birch Aquarium takes online privacy seriously, and our Privacy Policy can be viewed here.

May I record the program?
At this time, we are unable to allow recording of our programs. The program and associated materials are the intellectual property of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.  

Materials and Lesson Support

What materials do the students need to participate in the program?
Our programs are designed to require minimal materials. We will provide materials to the teacher/group leader at least 2 weeks in advance for printing or distribution. If learning from home, students may wish to print some items so they can participate along with the instructors. If students are unable to obtain copies of the materials, they can follow along on the screen.  

Are there any other lessons that can help prepare my students for the program?
Birch Aquarium Education Department will email the teacher/ group leader materials and additional lesson information at least 2 weeks prior to your program. If you have any questions about these materials, please contact us at birchaquariumedu@ucsd.edu.