Discovery Passage Aquarium | Explorer Lab
aquarium, Campbell River, Comox, North Island, tourism, attractions, family, staycation, tourist,
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Explorer Lab

Let’s Explore the Ocean

There’s so much to discover!

The Lab is open year round and provides a variety of curriculum-based, custom, and community-oriented educational programming. We offer great learning experiences for all ages, the more fun-filled and hands-on the better! The Explorer Lab is a natural extension of the Aquarium’s activities. It is located in the lower suite of the Maritime Heritage Centre, with its entrance to the left of the ‘lighthouse’.

School Programs

These programs are developed to support the prescribed learning outcomes of the B.C. Ministry of Education’s integrated resource packages. We offer a range of school programs in both English and French. They primarily take place in our classroom, wet lab, and neighbouring rocky shore.  Custom programming can also be arranged.

K and Grade 1: Working Together

We take a science-based approach to the popular children’s book ‘Sharing a Shell’ by Julia Donaldson. While the book can be viewed simply from the perspective of ‘friendship’, we will be discussing the ideas of animals cooperating to survive (symbiosis), predator/prey interactions, and habitat.

Students will be able to study the three very different animals from the story, with hands-on opportunities to compare them using live and preserved specimens as available. They will also have opportunity to explore the themes further through crafts or play-based exploration using a variety of different props, including puppets.

Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $80

Grade 2: Tis the Season

This program provides an introductory look at the seasonality of different local marine plants and animals, with hands-on exploration opportunities and demonstrations. Topics include requirements for survival and growth; reproductive strategies; growth patterns; migration; Students will also explore the seasonality of linkages in the marine food web (e.g. herring, salmon, birds, bears, sea lions/seals, humans).

Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $80

Grade 3: Seaweed, oh seaweed!

Students will learn about different marine algae, aka ‘seaweed’, with consideration of their place and importance in the marine ecosystem. Includes hands-on opportunities and demonstrations in the wet lab and on the beach as weather and season permit. Students will examine available local seaweeds, looking at their different parts; life stages including basic reproductive strategies; as well as harvesting and uses by humans. Students will get to sample dried seaweed, as well as have opportunity to take part in a blindfolded taste test of products that incorporate seaweeds.

Note: This program is best in the summer/fall when several important species of seaweed are easier to obtain.

Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $80

Grade 4: Feed Me

Students will consider the many varied ways that animals obtain their food in the marine environment, and will look at simple intertidal food webs. Students will be able to study different animals, with hands-on opportunities to compare them using live and preserved specimens as available. The program will include an interactive marine food web game, as well as demonstrations of predator-prey interactions in the wet lab.

Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: 100

Grade 5: Salmon as a Resource

This programme focuses on salmon as a living, renewable resource. Topics include a review of the salmon lifecycle, and their interconnectedness in local ecosystems. Students will have opportunity to dissect salmon in our wet lab, and we will give consideration in our discussion to fishing, aquaculture, recreational connections, processing, First Nations’ significance and uses, as well as challenges faced by salmon in the modern world (climate change, ocean acidification, demand pressures).

Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: 100

Grade 6: What am I?

Students will complete an marine-focused identification exercise, learning about the taxonomic classification system and use of dichotomous keys in determining species. We will examine several local echinoderm and mollusc species using hand-lenses, microscopes, and dissection to compare the structure of the animals in the wet lab. This programme will incorporate time on the beach with ID guides if weather permits.

Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: 100

Grade 7: Connections

This program introduces the concepts of population, community, and ecosystem within the context of our local marine environment. Students will be guided to consider the survival needs of intertidal animals, as well as learn about different symbiotic relationships and predator-prey interactions while looking at live and preserved animals in the wet lab.

Students will focus on herring at the centre of our marine food web exploration, with consideration of their life stages (plankton, juvenile, adult) and seasonality to illustrate food web complexity and interdependence of species.

Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: 100

Grade 8: Life in the Intertidal 'Hood

Students will consider species distribution within the local intertidal zone. They will explore how animals and plants inhabit the places they do, and how they manage to survive and reproduce. This will include discussion of salinity, temperature, shelter/substrate, ocean energy, tides, food availability, and predation . We will also include an overview of climate change and ocean acidification, illustrated with local examples. This program incorporates visit to the beach where feasible and/or teaching aids in the Explorer Lab.

Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: 100

Public Programs

The Explorer Lab is a fun place to come for families to discover the ocean. Watch this page for information on our latest public programs. If you have a program idea for us, please get in touch. If your group would like a special event, or a themed program, we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

Camps For Kids

Don’t miss this fun learning opportunity offered by the NEW DISCOVERY PASSAGE EXPLORER LAB! We offer day camps, summer camps, and many other camps for youngsters looking to explore the diversity of ocean animals big and small through hands on learning. Each of these themed camps combines educational experiences inside and outside of the Explorer Lab, with educational games, activities, crafts and more! Kids will enjoy the local beach (rain or shine), and pier while learning about their favourite marine creatures.


Contact us to be put on our interest list to be notified when new camps are announced. You can also check out our events page for upcoming camps.

Birthday Parties

Have an incredible birthday party at the Discovery Passage Explorer Lab! You and your guests will get to meet and learn about many amazing creatures in the Aquarium’s wet lab, learn about how it works behind the scenes, make a marine-themed craft, and enjoy some time for cake. We offer 2 hours of fun filled activities that start at $100*, that’s lots of time for the beach, lab, puppets, story time or custom party adventures for the adults. That’s right, birthday’s aren’t just for kids, adults can celebrate here too!

Birthday Party Details

  • You can choose to bring your own cake, or we will arrange for a delicious cake just for you! $40+*
  • We can also provide sweet treats and special gifts for each of your guests. Loot bags start at $5* each
  • Decorate in your theme a half hour before, or leave it to us. $10+*
  • We do all the clean-up! Leave the mess behind.

Please contact us for additional prices* and availability.

Speaker Series

We are pleased to host a variety of local marine biologists and other experts to share their knowledge with the community. These events are by donation and will be announced on our events page and in the local newspaper.

Customized Programming and Bookings

The Explorer Lab is available for you to book for your own event or we can work with you to develop customized programming. Contact us for more details.