N.C. Aquariums Expand Educational Opportunities Through Grants for Title I Schools

Teachers in North Carolina’s Title I schools have an opportunity to engage their students in ocean science programming
Raleigh

Teachers in North Carolina’s Title I schools have an opportunity to engage their students in ocean science programming, thanks to a new program offering privately-funded mini-grants. The Aquarium Scholars program will provide underserved students in Title I schools across the state access to ocean science and science, technology, engineering and math aquarium education opportunities.

The nonprofit North Carolina Aquarium Society, in partnership with the three state aquariums (Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island) and Jennette’s Pier (Nags Head), North Carolina public schools, the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University and private donors, have established the fund to support school programming.

Teachers from Title I schools can apply for mini-grants to fund a variety of the Aquarium Scholars programs. Teachers may select outreach programs in the classroom featuring live animals, distance learning programs delivering real-time experiences or class trips to the Carolina coast for visits and programs at one of the aquariums or Jennette’s Pier. Each opportunity offers a chance to meet fascinating aquatic animals, learn about important conservation topics and get involved with other unique educational opportunities.

Teachers may submit applications now through Dec. 17, 2017 for programs offered in the current school year. For the following school year, applications may be submitted from July 1 through Sept. 15, 2018 for 2018-2019 funding.

“The Aquarium Scholars program is important for both teachers and students because tightening school budgets have resulted in fewer opportunities for valuable, informal learning experiences,” said David Griffin, Aquariums division director. “While the aquariums remain a popular destination for school classes, we have noticed a downward trend in participation, especially for schools with underserved student populations.”

With the support of the Department of Public Instruction, the Aquarium Scholars program will be publicized to teachers through emails, newsletters and conference presentations.

“The North Carolina Aquariums offer one of the largest informal science education programs in the state,” said Brenda Berg, president and CEO of Best NC, a non-profit organization committed to improving the education system. “The new Aquarium Scholars initiative will expand access to these offerings for at-risk students in Title I schools – an effort that can help close achievement gaps in both science and life skills for thousands of students across the state.”

Regardless of whether a teacher chooses to bring a class to the aquarium or have staff come to the classroom, students will have the opportunity to learn.

“We want to educate and inspire youth of today on what is going on around them,” said Windy Arey-Kent, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores education coordinator. “The Aquarium Scholars program is an opportunity to break down barriers and hopefully increase participation so that we can reach more children.”

This partnership would not happen or be successful without each organization involved. To ensure maximum success, the Friday Institute is partnering with the aquariums to evaluate the program and develop standard measurements for its success. Group visits, program participation and grant awards will be carefully tracked. The evaluation of this data will be compiled into an annual report, with the first report available near the end of 2018.

Funding support for Aquarium Scholars has been generously provided by the N.C. Aquarium Society board of directors, R.A. Bryan Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Grady-White Boats, Southern Bank, Tetlow and Roy Park Aquarium Legacy Fund, Triad Foundation, Allan C. & Margaret L. Mims Foundation, and the Goodnight Education Foundation.

For more information and to fill out an application, please visit www.ncaquariums.com/aquarium-scholars.