Title I Schools Receive $69,000 in Grants for Aquarium Scholars

Raleigh

The door to new adventures recently opened for students across the state. Field trips, programming, and outreach opportunities became easier for teachers in North Carolina’s Title I schools thanks to the Aquarium Scholars grant program. More than $69,000 were distributed to teachers across the state, allowing schools with higher proportions of students from low-income households to experience aquatic animals, learn about important conservation topics and get involved with other unique educational opportunities. A total of 79 teachers from 35 counties received grants ranging from $150 to $1,000.

“We believe all North Carolina students should have an opportunity to experience the amazing educational resources at our state aquariums,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “Thanks to our outstanding partners, the Aquarium Scholars Program provides a path to make those resources accessible to more students than ever before.”

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 in Nags Head, the North Carolina public schools, the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University and private donors, raised funds to establish the new Aquarium Scholars program. Teachers were given an opportunity in November to apply for the grants.

“Although it’s a brand new program, we still received applications from 118 teachers,” said Jay Barnes, development director for the Aquarium Society, which has raised roughly $450,000 to be distributed to schools over the next three years.

Although the aquariums are free for all school visits, other barriers, such as transportation costs, can keep teachers from visiting.

“My students are from a very rural community in northeastern North Carolina. Many of my students have never had the opportunity to travel outside of Martin County, much less to the outer banks, an aquarium or a beach,” said a teacher from Rodgers Elementary School in her application. “This trip would enable our students to experience an aquarium, learn about ocean animals and habitats, and explore the history of the outer banks of North Carolina. My students love to learn about animals, but have no idea how many different animals live in our oceans.”

According to one survey conducted by a North Carolina school, less than 60 percent of students surveyed have ever been to the ocean, and less than 30 percent know the name of the ocean they live near.

“By allowing students to physically touch the ocean, smell the salt of the sea and feel the power of the waves crashing on their legs, students will have a profound lasting memory of the majesty of the sea,” said a middle school teacher from Perquimans County in her application. “Students will be able to internalize the importance of conservation efforts and understand the interconnectedness between our habitat on land and the creatures that live in the sea.”

Teachers from Title I schools can apply for grants to fund a variety of aquarium programs for students. 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.

Jennette’s Pier will see 1,301 students from 10 different counties over the next few months. Many will explore STEM classes such as squid dissection, water cycle, solar energy, ocean currents, plankton, marine mammals and beach exploration.

The Aquarium at Fort Fisher awarded 25 grants for seven outreach programs and 18 aquarium visits. The Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores granted seven outreach programs and nine field trips with education programs. The Aquarium on Roanoke Island awarded 18 grants for five outreach programs and 13 aquarium visits.

Teachers will be able to submit new applications for 2018-19 funding from July 1 through Sept. 15, 2018.

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.