By Submitted Story on July 19, 2021
The last year and a half was full of unknowns in the classroom, and the next year might hold some of the same. The North Carolina Aquariums are asking teachers to take a few minutes to apply for this year’s Aquarium Scholars Grant helping bring the beach within reach.
Applications are now available for the 2021-2022 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 $120,000 in mini grants will be awarded to help with trip costs, transportation fees and other needs.
“We realize that teachers may not yet know what this next year will bring, but we are hoping that they will still take a few minutes to apply for the grant,” said Jay Barnes, executive director for the North Carolina Aquarium Society. “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.”
If teachers are unsure of what they will be allowed to do next year, they are encouraged to apply for one of the many outreach programs.
Nearly 50,000 students from 77 counties have benefited from nearly $320,000 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.
“I know many of my students have never had the opportunity to visit the beach and discover the wonders of the ocean. I actually have an ocean themed class,” said one Cumberland County teacher. “We are the Beachcombers. I love using the theme to teach with my students. We also had a reading unit that was ocean themed with our new series.”
Another teacher added about last-years completely virtual programming, “I’ve been struggling with how to present engaging material in an online/hybrid setting. This was a perfect starting point for future planning.”
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 cephalopods, 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 this partnership, 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 Reid Wilson, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “This program helps to advance our goal of ensuring that every child in North Carolina has an opportunity to learn about science and understand the importance of the natural world.”
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, Inform Evaluation & Research is continuing to work 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 is compiled into an annual report and is available online.
“We could not do what we do without the extensive support of our partners and donors,” said Barnes.
Aquarium Scholars is made possible through the generous support of a variety of private donors including the R.A. Bryan Foundation, Duke Energy Foundation, Grady-White Boats, NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, Wells Fargo Foundation, Harold H. Bate Foundation, Bill & Bob Dobo Trust, Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, Goodnight Education Foundation, Allan C. & Margaret L. Mims Charitable Trust, George Smedes Poyner Foundation, Tetlow & Roy Park Aquarium Legacy Fund, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q, Southern Bank Foundation, Triad Foundation, Walters Family Foundation, North Carolina Aquarium Society Board of Directors, and other individuals.
Applications for the 2021-2022 Aquarium Scholars may be submitted through Sept. 8. For more information or to contribute, visit www.ncaquariums.com/aquarium-scholars