Georgia Aquarium touches the heart to teach the mind

Students ride a wave of education in Atlanta’s own ocean

08/09/2011
Field Trip Destination

As the world’s largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium is dedicated to its educational and conservation-based mission to provide guests with a better understanding of the ecology of the oceans we share. During the initial development of Georgia Aquarium, benefactor Bernie Marcus and Aquarium staff worked to ensure education was heavily embedded in the experience of guests and students through a variety of initiatives created to help them discover the aquatic realm in an immersed learning environment.

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Georgia Aquarium’s Education Department strives to make the educational experience an extension of the classroom. Its educational programming puts an inspirational twist on a typical field trip and the programs bring children and teachers face-to-fin with learning. Students tour the world-class exhibits representing dynamic aquatic species and environments, and many get a chance to see the Aquarium from a different perspective as they experience behind-the-scenes.

The Learning Loop is a space designed specifically for educational programming where students and teachers have the unique opportunity receive a bird’s eye view of these amazing exhibits. Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium in the U.S. to dedicate this type of space primarily to the educational benefit of school-aged students and teachers.

The Learning Loop, filled with interactive exhibits and appealing visuals, stresses the importance of aquatic ecosystems and conservation of our oceans and rivers. In addition, the educational area includes activities for visually-impaired students to experience the splendor of the animals through their sense of touch. This unique learning space is made possible by the generosity of a variety of donors who support Georgia Aquarium’s educational initiatives.

This exceptional experience is not limited to students; teachers also immerse themselves in the learning fun. Hands-on experiences provide new ways to engage students and to more clearly communicate complex concepts taught in the classroom. In this atmosphere, students can apply their knowledge in ways not possible in a traditional school setting. Students who visit the Aquarium on field trips are able to bridge the gap from experiencing nature on the screen to getting up-close and personal with marine species, in hopes of building environmentally literate citizens at a young age.

“I am particularly proud of the educational aspect of the Georgia Aquarium,” said Aquarium benefactor Bernie Marcus. “It’s unlike anything anyone has ever done before. Children and teachers alike are excited and inspired by what they see and do here.”

Annually in the U.S., 30 million students and 1.2 million teachers participate in environmental education programs like those offered by the Georgia Aquarium and local zoo partner, Zoo Atlanta. It is the Aquarium’s goal to provide unique opportunities that cannot be replicated in the classroom while allowing students to investigate and learn about real world issues. When visiting Georgia Aquarium, students and adults make personal connections that last a lifetime. Once that connection is made, they are empowered to take action and protect what they now know, experience and care about. That action can take many forms, from picking up trash to growing up to become a state legislator.

The Aquarium also offers exciting daily and weekly camps throughout the year. Georgia Aquarium’s Camp H2O, is an educational camp held during spring, summer and winter seasons. These week-long day camps are designed for children between the ages of six to 12 and allow campers to experience animal encounters, behind-the-scene tours, opportunities to talk with animal care teams and much more.

Georgia Aquarium is proud to offer professional development opportunities for teachers to explore a wide range of topics related to the unique aquatic ecosystems found around the world. Teachers who visit the Learning Loop through this program gain a deeper understanding of these complex ecosystems as well as strategies for integrating this content into their classroom curriculum.

The world’s largest aquarium recently opened its largest expansion to date, the new AT&T Dolphin Tales gallery, theater and live theatrical show.  This Broadway-caliber production, taking place in and around nearly two million gallons of man-made salt water, features dramatic music and special effects accompanied by an enthralling story line, and stars both humans and bottlenose dolphins. This gallery and show is a key example of how the Aquarium takes education and inspiration to new levels, touching the heart while teaching the mind, to captivate guests of all ages.

Georgia Aquarium recognizes that not everyone has the resources to experience the Aquarium. To meet the needs of those who are unable to visit under normal circumstances, the Aquarium is proud to offer Sponsored Education Admissions (SEA) and Fish Wish, which provide free or discounted admission to groups and individuals who would not otherwise be able to visit. These programs allow all students to have an opportunity to participate in the educational experiences.

Since Georgia Aquarium opened, nearly 500,000 students have experienced the educational programs offered at the Aquarium. Providing the opportunity to create personal relationships connections with individual ambassadors of highlighted species at Georgia Aquarium can lead to changes in lifestyle and informed support for conservation-based activities by the millions of people who visit the Aquarium each year.  When one is inspired, there is no limit to the things one can do.

For more information about the Georgia Aquarium or its educational programs, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org or call 404-581-4000.
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Issue 16.3 | Winter 2014

Southeast Education Network

Our Mission: to reinvigorate the spirit of American education

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