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National Aquarium Offers Waterfront Education Program for Baltimore City Students

Organization receives historic B-WET grant, partner support to fund STEM learning opportunity


The National Aquarium celebrates the start of the new What Lives in the Harbor program, a hands-on STEM education course connecting Baltimore City Public Schools students with the Aquarium's Inner Harbor waterfront campus. The program increases 6th grade students' environmental literacy through learning opportunities known as "meaningful watershed educational experiences" both inside and outside the classroom.

The Aquarium worked with Baltimore City Public Schools Department of Teaching and Learning to create a program that directly links with the school system's curriculum. The program begins in the classroom, where teachers introduce the concept of a watershed and have students research animals that could potentially live in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Students then visit the National Aquarium's waterfront campus, where they participate in hands-on work like water quality testing and observation of species inhabiting the area.

During a special kick-off event today, more than 35 students from William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School explored the habitats between the Aquarium's Piers 3 and 4 with special guests, including, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Congressman John Sarbanes and Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh. The group participated in outdoor science activities including turbidity testing and pH assessment of the water.

Thanks in large part to the support of the Maryland federal delegation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is able to provide funding for environmental education projects throughout the Mid Atlantic through the Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program. The National Aquarium is receiving $432,627 in B-WET funding, one of the largest grant projects under this program. Over the next three years, the grant will support the expansion of the program to reach every middle school in Baltimore City, beginning with 35 schools during the 2018-2019 school year.

"We take our mission to inspire a new generation of urban conservationists very seriously," said National Aquarium Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli. "Our conservation team works throughout our community to connect young people with the water and nature in their own neighborhoods and to make STEM education real for these future leaders. We are pleased and grateful to our philanthropic partners, federal delegation, our Mayor and especially NOAA, whose important support helps us make it happen every day."

"We're excited to provide NOAA B-WET funding to support the National Aquarium and its partners on the What Lives in the Harbor project," said Sean Corson, acting director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. "Their thoughtful approach to instilling environmental education throughout 6th-grade classrooms in Baltimore City will ensure that for years to come students here will learn the skills necessary to be the next generation of Chesapeake Bay stewards."

The Chesapeake Bay Trust and Towson University are also providing financial support. To maintain the program across the full City Schools system beyond the next three years, the Aquarium will be seeking additional philanthropic support to continue offering the program on an ongoing, permanent basis.

The What Lives in the Harbor program also empowers and educates pre-service teachers from local universities who serve as on-site instructors during the students' field experiences at the Aquarium. Current university partners include Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Towson University, University of Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County, with plans in place to enlist additional schools.

For more information about National Aquarium education programs, visit