Monterey Bay Aquarium Files Permit Application to Build a New $30 Million Center for Ocean Education and Leadership

Center will double the impact of the Aquarium's outreach programs to students and teachers

Feb 19, 2016

Education Programs
Aquarium News

Each year, more than 75,000 schoolchildren and teachers benefit from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s array of free education programs. Now, these programs are primed to grow in size and impact, in a new $30 million home on Monterey’s Cannery Row.

The nonprofit aquarium filed a use permit application on Friday (February 12) for a 26,000-square-foot K-12 Center for Ocean Education and Leadership. It hopes to break ground this fall on the state-of-the-art center, and to welcome the first program participants in 2018.

The new center, at 625 Cannery Row, will house innovative and interactive education and leadership programs for visiting school groups, teachers and youth. The four-story building will incorporate cutting-edge technology for learning and teaching, including learning labs, wet labs with marine life, and collaborative learning spaces. It will be constructed to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold standards for sustainability, including solar panels, a living roof and water conservation features.

“We’re thrilled to be moving forward with a project that will have such a significant long-term impact on science education in California,” said aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard.  “Completion of the Center for Ocean Education and Leadership will take our commitment to advancing ecosystem-based learning to a new level of excellence.”

“This work is so important as threats to the ocean grow more urgent each day,” Packard said. “We're at a pivotal time for the planet. We need to reach more children, teens and teachers, but right now, demand for our education programs far exceeds our capacity to serve.”

The aquarium has raised $28 million toward the $65 million needed to fund purchase of the property, construction of the center, and to support expansion of programs for visiting school groups, teachers and youth.

“We’re grateful for the generosity that our community of donors and friends has shown thus far,” Packard said. “We’re confident that many more individuals who share our vision will step forward to make this important new center a reality.”

When the Center for Ocean Education and Leadership is completed, every school group that wants an aquarium staff-led program will be able to have that experience as part of their visit; the aquarium will double the number of classroom teachers from across the country who take part in professional development programs; and will double the number of teens participating in multi-year leadership training programs.

The aquarium’s education initiatives were recently recognized with the 2015 Community Impact Award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Since 1985, the aquarium has hosted – free of charge – more than 2.2 million visiting students from throughout California. Fewer than half can participate in programs led by staff educators, because existing Discovery Lab classrooms and the aquarium auditorium can’t accommodate more.

“With larger facilities in the new center, nearly every visiting student will be able to  take part in one of the many programs we’ve created to help school districts and home school families better meet California’s Next Generation of Science Standards,” said Rita Bell, the aquarium’s director of education.

“There’s a serious need in California, to bolster science and environmental education in our schools,” she added. “We’re responding to that need.”

As part of its expanded commitment to professional development for teachers, the aquarium will be able to accommodate more than 1,200 educators each year in a varieity of programs. Aquarium-sponsored institutes help K-12 classroom teachers deliver ecosystem-based science education to their students in California and nationwide.

And it will support twice as many teen participants in programs like Teen Conservation Leaders, which aim to develop young adults who are ocean literate, inspired, confident and ready to act on behalf of the ocean.

Plans for the center include:

  • Four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning labs
  • A large multi-use area for workshops and video teleconferences
  • An orientation space for groups visiting the aquarium that will double as a lunch area
  • Storage and supply rooms, including for new technology
  • Offices for education staff and volunteers
  • Collaborative meeting spaces for staff, teachers and youth
  • A public-access exhibit area on the ground floor along Cannery Row

The building was designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates. The award-winning San Francisco architectural firm focuses on cultural, educational and civic projects, and is widely recognized for its sustainable building practices.

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.