The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk celebrated 40 Norwalk high-school students June 12 who spent the school year participating in a bonus after-school program focused on the students’ educational and career opportunities.
The ninth and tenth grade students came to the aquarium after school once a week for a program called “Dead Reckoners,” the entry-level component of a larger program called TeMPEST (Teen Maritime Program Emphasizing Science & Technology). Its goals are to promote the teens’ STEM literacy, to prepare them for college, to make them aware of career opportunities and to develop skills that will help them in any profession.
Most participants attend Brien McMahon High, but the program also had students from Norwalk High and Fairfield Wheeler Magnet School.
At the June 12 ceremony, Tom Naiman, the aquarium’s education director, told parents, friends and board members that the students “have been coming here week in and week out since September. They didn’t have to. They wanted to. They’re committed to their own futures, and to the planet’s future.”
The “Dead Reckoners” displayed 10 dioramas they created that were inspired by or depict a STEM-related marine-science career, such as marine conservation, geological oceanography, ichthyology and climatology. The students have been working on the dioramas in groups of four since January in their weekly sessions. (The dioramas will remain up as Maritime Aquarium exhibits through the summer.)
Naiman said other program highlights of the school year included: a spring-break trip to visit colleges and museums in Philadelphia; attending several guest lectures at the Aquarium, including one in February by Fabien Cousteau, son of SCUBA inventor and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau; and recently Skyping with Cousteau for an hour during his ongoing underwater expedition called Mission 31.
Aquarium educators even included prep for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which, Naiman admitted, was perhaps not the students’ favorite sessions.
TeMPEST was launched with 10 students in the 2012-13 academic year, thanks to a $26,000 grant from The Fairfield County Community Foundation. A $150,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation is enabling the Aquarium to continue and expand TeMPEST into 2016, with the hope of involving as many as 120 students.
As the participating students become high-school upperclassmen, the Aquarium will continue to provide programs that will supplement their classroom education and prepare them for pursuits after high school. The students also will volunteer or intern at the Aquarium or other non-profit organizations.
Jennifer Herring, president of The Maritime Aquarium, has called TeMPEST an exciting addition to the Aquarium’s educational programming.
“This is just another way that The Maritime Aquarium brings value to the city of Norwalk, improving the quality-of-life index for Norwalk residents,” she said. “Certainly people know the economic benefits that the Aquarium brings to the city as a tourist attraction. But we also celebrate being able to present our unique educational programs to Norwalk students through TeMPEST and the other partnerships we have with the Norwalk schools.”
For more information about The Maritime Aquarium’s educational programs, for students of all ages, go to maritimeaquarium.org or call (203) 852-0700.