Inspiring conservation with education for all ages

Sponsored by: South Carolina Aquarium
By: Ellie Davis

If you have been to the South Carolina Aquarium, you know that its exhibits and galleries are designed to take you on a journey from the mountains to the sea, exploring our state’s rich biodiversity and distinct geographical landscape. The Aquarium’s dedication to the species of South Carolina also includes the education of the people that populate, and visit, this state.

The presence of the South Carolina Aquarium can be felt far beyond its physical walls on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean; its reach permeates the foothills of the upstate and flows through the rivers and streams passing through the midlands, touching the lives of students and lifelong learners in every county along the way.
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Established as a marine science education institution, the South Carolina Aquarium’s mission focuses on inspiring conservation of the natural world by exhibiting and caring for animals, by excelling in education and research, and by providing an exceptional visitor experience.

Since its founding, the Aquarium has been dedicated to providing unparalleled educational experiences with the natural world, serving more than one million students throughout South Carolina with uniquely crafted and engaging educational opportunities and field trip experiences to date.

The Aquarium opened its doors more than 15 years ago with a fully-formed master educational plan crafted by community leaders and education experts, and was the only aquarium in the United States to do so at the time. Since then, the Aquarium’s educational footprint has grown to offer a variety of award-winning programs both on-site and throughout the entire state with outreach opportunities tailored for all age groups. From the Structured School Program and High School Intern Program at the Aquarium to the Rovers Education Outreach Program, the Aquarium has led the way to connect people with water, wildlife, and wild places both within its walls and beyond reaching students, teachers, and families in all 46 counties.

In 2013, the Aquarium launched the Watershed Campaign, a six-year initiative to advance the Aquarium’s mission and expand its transformational learning opportunities to serve more students of all age groups. Its new Early Learning Initiative and has already reached more than 2,500 Pre-k students throughout South Carolina, providing our state’s smallest learners with unmatched opportunities to learn about the natural world through activities tailored to their unique learning style.
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And, the Aquarium launched a successful adult learning series, the Holland Lifelong Learning Program, to provide an outlet for adults in our community to explore thought-provoking science topics of interest including why sharks are critical to biomedical research, the importance of pluff mud to our regional ecosystem, sustainable seafood, and the role zoos and aquariums play in conservation in the twenty-first century.

At the much anticipated opening of the South Carolina Aquarium in May 2000, former Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. eloquently honored the Aquarium by declaring, “You have given our children a priceless gift. Children will enter, but future scientists, doctors, and biologists will leave. Math and science will have a new meaning and interest. And the child from an at-risk environment of limited horizons will enter the building and feel the beauty and power of this, their Aquarium, and they will never be the same.”

After welcoming more than seven million guests, one million schoolchildren for field trips and educational programs, and its reach deep into the South Carolina community, the Aquarium has certainly held its place as South Carolina’s premier marine science institution, and will continue to inspire future generations of scientists, environmentalists, and lifelong learners for many years to come.