Teachers at Title I public schools can apply until Sept. 8 for the latest round of Aquarium Scholars mini-grants.
These mini-grants through the North Carolina Aquarium Society help fund field trips to North Carolina Aquariums facilities or have educators visit the teacher’s location.
The aquariums are at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier is in Nags Head.
Applications for the 2021-2022 Aquarium Scholars can be submitted through Sept. 8. For more information or to contribute, visit www.ncaquariums.com/aquarium-scholars.
This is the fifth cycle of funding available from the North Carolina Aquarium Society for Title 1 schools. Most students at Title 1 schools are from low-income households and a federal program provides funding for schools where the poverty level is at least 75%.
Nearly 50,000 students from 77 counties have benefited from almost $320,000 in grants since the program began in 2018. Grants have funded nearly 300 field trips to the state’s three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.
“For nearly five years the Aquarium Scholars program has provided one of our state’s most innovative educational experiences for students from under-resourced communities,” said Reid Wilson, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in a statement.
“It’s wonderful to watch the children’s faces light up with wonder as they experience and learn about things they’ve never seen before,” he said, “and it gets them excited about science and nature.”
The North Carolina Aquarium Society’s Director of Development Jim Mulvey said that to him, the most important aspect of the program is “reaching underserved students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the pier or one of our aquariums or even see the ocean,” he said. “We hear from teachers all the time about the experience of their students seeing the ocean for the first time.”
Pine Knoll Shores’ social media specialist Shannon Kemp said that an educator will travel to the school for a live animal presentation through their Aquarium Scholars program.
“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.”
Gatesville elementary students visited Jennette’s Pier on a field trip last month. Many of the students have never even seen the sea before and Aquarium Scholars was designed to help achieve goals such as this for these Title I children who attend schools like Gatesville Elementary, Mulvey said.
“For some of our funders, it expands students’ perception of and exposure to careers in science and conservation,” he said. “Others may consider this a social justice issue, in providing equal educational opportunities for students, regardless of financial circumstances.”
Jennette’s Pier Education Curator Christin Brown said she often gets to see first-hand how the program impacts these students.
“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,” she said. “Students also really enjoy learning about renewable energy and building their own devices such as solar cars or boats and mini wind turbines.”