WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes, Elijah Cummings and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (all D-Md.), have announced $432,627 in federal funding over three years for What Lies in the Harbor, an environmental education program sponsored by a partnership between Baltimore’s National Aquarium and Baltimore City Public Schools.
The program will provide the opportunity for all City Schools 6th graders to visit the National Aquarium and conduct hands-on scientific investigations of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Students will learn about watershed ecosystems and functions in the classroom, then conduct pH, salinity, turbidity and other tests at the National Aquarium before analyzing results and writing up environmental recommendations back in the classroom. Thirty-five schools have registered to participate this fall. Funding comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) grant program, which was established by Congress in 2002.
“Providing hands-on experience is absolutely critical to creating an engaging, quality learning environment, and that’s precisely what this program accomplishes. It allows City Schools students to connect directly and passionately with our Chesapeake Bay, and to see firsthand how our handling of natural resources impacts our world and our communities,” said Senator Ben Cardin, who was key in passing the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education, and Ecosystem Enhancement Act of 2009, which strengthened and expanded B-WET. “I applaud the good work City Schools and the National Aquarium are doing, and am proud to have had a hand in helping to create the B-WET grant program. It has proven its merit time and again, with this latest round of funding for What Lies in the Harbor being yet another tremendous example of its value to Maryland students.”
“This program is a win-win – it helps our students learn about science in a creative, engaging way and teaches these children about the importance of environmental stewardship,” said Senator Van Hollen, who worked to secure significant funding for the B-WET program in fiscal year 2018 as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, despite the president’s budget eliminating the program. “Showing students the real-life applications of learning is one of the best ways to inspire their success, and I know these kids will have fun getting their hands wet. I will continue working to promote hands-on educational opportunities and environmental education for Maryland students.”
“This federal grant funding will help provide enriching outdoor learning experiences for more than 5,600 Baltimore students and go a long way toward inspiring the next generation of Chesapeake Bay stewards,” said Congressman Sarbanes, who strongly backed the National Aquarium’s grant request and who — as author of the No Child Left Inside Act — has long championed efforts to improve environmental education. “The National Aquarium plays a critical role in connecting young students to the natural world and is well positioned to partner with Baltimore City Public Schools and local universities to create an immersive environmental education program for middle schoolers in our city.”
“This NOAA B-WET grant will help give Baltimore City students a remarkable opportunity to learn firsthand about the environment, the harbor ecosystem, and career opportunities in STEM fields,” said Congressman Cummings. “I commend the National Aquarium for creating this unique program to enhance and reinforce classroom learning in a meaningful way.”
“I was proud to successfully fight efforts to eliminate funding for programs including B-WET,” said Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who advocated for the grant as a member of the Appropriations Committee. “Now, the children of Baltimore City will reap the benefits at the world-renowned National Aquarium, learning how to become stewards of our oceans and the Chesapeake Bay and maybe even be inspired to pursue careers in STEM fields. This is exactly the type of investment in education the federal government should prioritize.”
“We are grateful for the support of Maryland’s federal delegation in securing this important B-WET grant,” said John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium. “It provides critical support that will allow us to reach even more Baltimore City students with an exciting and new educational offering. As our mission promises, we are committed to inspiring a passion for conservation and creating opportunities for young scholars to envision themselves in careers in science, technology, engineering or math. This will help spark that connection.”
“Our future scientists, environmental advocates, and leaders learn best when they explore real-world problems in hands-on ways. This generous grant means that all of our 6th-grade students can have that kind of learning experience,” said Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. “In working side by side with National Aquarium staff and college students, our young people also see what future careers in science and research can involve – and the focus on protecting our city’s beautiful harbor and the Chesapeake Bay makes the learning all the more powerful.”
What Lies in the Harbor represents the National Aquarium’s largest B-WET funded program to date. At full implementation, it welcomes more than 5,000 students each year.