Aquarium Scholars Grants Available for 2019-2020 School Year

Fifth grade students from Elmhurst Elementary School in Greenville visit Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium
Pine Knoll Shores

While the traditional school year is ending for teachers and students across the state, it is never too early for educators to think of exciting ways to engage their students next year. The North Carolina Aquariums team wants to help by making it easier to access marine education and connect young people to nature and the ocean. 

Applications are now available for the 2019-2020 Aquarium Scholars grant program. Aquarium Scholars offers funding for Title 1 schools to help remove barriers that may hinder educational opportunities with the aquariums. More than $115,000 in mini-grants will be awarded to help with trip costs, transportation fees and other needs.  
More than 20,000 students from 56 counties have benefited from nearly $166,700 in grants since the inception of Aquarium Scholars in 2018. Grants have funded nearly 300 field trips to the state’s three aquariums (Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores, Roanoke Island) and Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. In addition, aquarium educators have presented more than 120 live animal programs in school classrooms across the state. 

“Our students learned how important research is in the area of marine biology and how much of this research affects other areas of our lives,” said a 10th grade teacher from Davidson County High School. “The program brought the aquarium to our students and many may never have the opportunity to visit the aquarium or even travel outside of Davidson County.”

Teachers receiving the grants may choose from a robust array of programs, uniquely designed for grade level and topic. Each include a mix of science, technology, engineering and math activities, hands-on programs and field experiences at the aquariums and Jennette’s Pier. Students can dissect squid, explore remote-operated vehicles and much more. 

Aquarium Scholars is a partnership between the aquariums, North Carolina public schools and the nonprofit North Carolina Aquarium Society, through which private donors help fund access to STEM-based Aquarium education programs for low-income students, with little or no cost to the schools or students.  

“It is so important to make the aquariums’ educational opportunities accessible to children from all backgrounds,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “That’s exactly what the Aquarium Society and aquariums are doing together through this amazing program. I’m thrilled to see how successful it has already become in just a short time.” 

The grants offer opportunities and experiences some students might not otherwise have. According to one survey conducted by a North Carolina school, less than 60 percent of students have ever been to the ocean and less than 30 percent know the name of the ocean off the North Carolina coast.

To ensure the maximum benefit of the program, the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University is working with the aquariums to evaluate the program and develop standard measurements for its success. Group visits, program participation and grant awards are carefully tracked. The evaluation of this data was compiled into an annual report.

“We could not do what we do without the generous support of our partners and donors,” said Jay Barnes, president of the Society.

Aquarium Scholars is made possible through the generous support of a variety of private donors including the Harold H. Bate Foundation, R.A. Bryan Foundation, Bill & Bob Dobo Trust, Duke Energy Foundation, Goodnight Educational Foundation, Grady-White Boats, Allan & Margaret Mims Charitable Trust, Tetlow & Roy Park Aquarium Legacy Fund, Southern Bank Foundation, Triad Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, The North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, Rotary Club of Kinston, Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q and the North Carolina Aquarium Society Board of Directors.

Applications for the 2019-2020 Aquarium Scholars may be submitted through Sept. 6. For more information or to make a contribution in support of Aquarium Scholars please call 800-832-3474 or visit
Aquarium Scholars 2019    
Total School Grant Awards - $166,700
Number of Grants Awarded - 212
Total Counties Served - 56
Outreach Visits to Schools - 69
Field Trips to Aquariums – 134
Virtual Education Programs – 9 
Award Cycles - 1