Aquarium Scholars grants reopen to bring educational opportunities to students

Published 12:00 pm Sunday, December 26, 2021

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Attention educators: Applications for the Aquarium Scholars mini grants are open once again. Aquarium Scholars offers funding for both North Carolina Title 1 schools and Title 1 eligible schools to help remove barriers that may hinder educational opportunities with the aquariums. These funds are awarded to cover trip costs, transportation fees and other needs and help create a multitude of unique educational opportunities including a visit to a North Carolina Aquarium or Jennette’s Pier, a special program at the aquariums, an onsite program at your school or a virtual program. “We are thrilled to offer a second round of mini grants this school year to better support N.C. students,” stated a North Carolina Aquariums press release.

Aquarium Scholars is a partnership between the North Carolina Aquariums, Jennette’s Pier, N.C. Public Schools and the nonprofit N.C. Aquarium Society provided by the generous support of numerous private donors. This supports access to the sciences to underserved students of North Carolina from the mountains to the sea.

At Jennette’s Pier in June, some elementary students from Gatesville were visiting on a field trip. One child was thrilled to catch a nice-sized trigger fish and was clearly excited with big eyes and a wide grin. Many of his classmates had never even seen the sea before and Aquarium Scholars was designed to help achieve goals such as this for children who attend schools like Gatesville Elementary.

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“I enjoy how excited the students are to be at the pier catching fish for their first time or walking along the beach collecting shells,” said Christin Brown, education curator at Jennette’s Pier. “Students also really enjoy learning about renewable energy and building their own devices such as solar cars or boats and mini wind turbines.”

From outreach science offerings to Fishing 101 on the pier, each student reacts differently, Brown noted.

“Every student is different, some students really love collecting plankton and looking at it under the microscope,” she said, “while others really enjoy dissecting squid or catching fish.”

Communications specialist Shannon Kemp from Pine Knoll Shores reports that their Aquarium Scholars programming often entails an educator traveling to the school for a live animal presentation.

“One of those programs is called Journey through North Carolina, which includes encounters with live animals that can be found across the state,” she said. “We also offer in-house educator led programs, behind-the-scenes tours, interactions with live animals like our sea turtle ambassadors, and special activity programs like squid dissection, water labs, beachcombing biology and more!”

At Roanoke Island, programs range from simple topics, like the Back To Basics program where students learn about the basic needs animals have to more complex topics, like the Ocean Science 101 program where students learn about the physics, chemistry, geology, biology of the ocean, focusing on marine invertebrates and discussions about climate change. There is also the Growing Green program where students learn about how trees are built, how flowers result in seeds and how to identify assorted tree leaves.

A teacher from Bethel Elementary School commented about their experience with Aquarium Scholars at Roanoke Island saying the program was “very engaging for students and reinforced standards taught. Everyone can be a scientist and learn from the environment around us.”

Kristin Holloman-Noe, outreach coordinator at Fort Fisher, shared how Aquarium Scholars funds helped reach students across the state in 2020. “With virtual programs offered through Aquarium Scholars, we were able to serve students who were learning from home and at school. Every student had the chance to virtually tour the aquarium and get an up-close view of many of our animals. Virtual programs continue to allow us to reach students too far away from the coast for a field trip or outreach visit.”

“In the past, Aquarium Scholars grants were only available to Title 1 schools, but we are excited to announce that if your school is Title 1 eligible but not an officially determined Title 1 school, you can still apply,” stated the release. “We are happy to open the Aquarium Scholars grants to more North Carolina students this year, making the aquarium programs even more accessible to schools that might now have been able to apply in previous years.”

Applications for Aquarium Scholars for each of the four locations can be submitted now through Jan. 9, 2022. For additional information and to apply, visit North Carolina Aquariums – Aquarium Scholars.