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Tennessee Aquarium Receives NOAA Ocean Education Grant

10/12/2009 2:32:58 PM

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has chosen to recognize and support the Aquarium’s ongoing educational efforts with a $1.275 million dollar grant to match dollars contributed by other Aquarium supporters.

Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Tennessee Aquarium Receives NOAA Ocean Education Grant
Funding Will Help Connect Tennessee to the World Ocean

Chattanooga, Tenn. (October 9, 2009) – When Jean-Michel Cousteau recently visited the Tennessee Aquarium, he was impressed with the design of the exhibits and the way visitors explore the path of a single drop of rain from the mountains to the sea. “I began one of my first documentaries in the Rocky Mountains to illustrate how our rivers are the roots of the oceans,” Cousteau said. “And our oceans are the life support system for the entire planet.”

The Aquarium’s commitment to present this freshwater to saltwater story in an entertaining way goes beyond what visitors experience. It’s also the cornerstone of the educational programming that reaches tens of thousands of students each year at the Aquarium and within regional schools.

And now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has chosen to recognize and support the Aquarium’s ongoing educational efforts with a $1.275 million dollar grant to match dollars contributed by other Aquarium supporters. "The NOAA grant and recently being awarded the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal would not have been possible without the very generous support of our sponsors, business partners and patrons who have helped us achieve our goals for the past 17 years," said Charlie Arant, Tennessee Aquarium president and CEO. "This grant and the National Medal validate the quality of the Aquarium’s work and help us expand our programs and impact on the region."

This was one of eleven NOAA grants totaling more than $9 million that will create new education projects in aquariums across the nation. The projects will educate visitors about the ocean and encourage better stewardship of the marine environment.

“We want to get people excited about the ocean and one of the best ways to do that is to work with our partners at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to promote the development of new and exciting programs,” said Louisa Koch, director, NOAA Education. “The aquariums receiving these grants will reach millions of visitors who, we hope, will become better stewards of our ocean environment.”

In Chattanooga, the funding creates a new initiative, Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean, which advances the Tennessee Aquarium’s strategic plan and NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment while teaching conservation principles aimed at protecting marine resources. "The theme of this grant is the core of our mountains to the sea story," said Tim Baker, the Aquarium’s director of education. "Like any non-profit institution, we are constantly looking for ways to fund our current programs and expand our footprint to serve more students. This is our opportunity."

The NOAA grant will boost the fun, educational opportunities for underserved students in the Chattanooga area by enabling the Aquarium to increase to 15,000 the number of Title I school students who can participate in its programs. "During these economic times, this infusion of resources really benefits area schools," Baker said. "We will be able to serve more children with our standards-based programs that can be tailored to meet the teacher’s needs."

Another major component of the NOAA grant allows the Aquarium to add a new outreach vehicle and another full-time outreach educator. The education department expects this new staff member to deliver an additional 300 free programs per year to Titile I schools within 120 miles of the Aquarium during the three-year grant period.

Finally, the NOAA grant includes funding to tackle several "bricks and mortar" projects that will enhance educational opportunities at the Aquarium in other ways. Space for school groups will be increased from three to five classrooms by remodeling the Environmental Learning Lab, ELL, located in the IMAX Center. Audio-visual systems will be upgraded in the Aquarium’s auditorium and “smart boards” will be installed in the ELL as well as in the River Journey classrooms to make programs even more engaging for students. The Aquarium’s Wetlab will get a make-over to create more space to house education outreach animals and to acquire more animal species. This will impact both outreach lessons delivered at area schools and guest experiences at the Aquarium during animal encounter programs.

Each day, excited faces light up as young minds encounter fantastic creatures from around the world within River Journey and Ocean Journey. At the same time, other students discover the fantastic stories of outreach animals in their classrooms while still others experience wildlife within a protected habitat aboard the River Gorge Explorer. These are some of the Aquarium’s success stories, which are fueled by Chattanooga’s giving spirit and national organizations like NOAA.

The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $21.95 per adult and $14.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $27.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Excursions aboard the new River Gorge Explorer depart daily into “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.” Cruise tickets are $29.00 per adult and $21.50 per child (3-12). Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.

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