Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
A sixth-grade student at Copper Canyon Elementary School in West Jordan reaches out to pet an African pygmy hedgehog during a Loveland Living Planet Aquarium Eco-Van outreach event on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.

DRAPER — Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is furthering its mission to inspire people to explore, discover and learn about Earth’s diverse ecosystems by launching a new program, the Eco-Van, for sixth-grade students along the Wasatch Front.

The Eco-Van program demonstrates how the stability of populations is affected by changes to an ecosystem. The aquarium has five animal ambassadors for this program that students can interact with up close — a giant cave cockroach, an African pygmy hedgehog, a Bredli carpet python, a Southern three-banded armadillo and an Argentine black-and-white tegu.

“We’re very excited to be launching this program. By helping students learn how even small changes can affect the environment, we’re helping them see how they can make positive changes that will benefit local and global ecosystems,” Christian Burrell, the aquarium’s director of education, said in a statement. “We want to keep science fun and engaging, and also teach students how they can make a difference.”

Since 1999, the aquarium has inspired Utah students to learn about science through multiple hands-on programs. During the 2015-16 school year, the aquarium visited 50,083 fourth-graders with the Utah Waters Van, and 12,072 second-graders with the Rainforest Van.

The aquarium’s outreach programs are free to public and charter schools due to funding from the state.