Ocean Education and Leadership Center Planned for California's Schoolchildren and Teachers

Jun 17, 2014

Education Programs
Conservation & Science
Aquarium News

Each year, more than 75,000 schoolchildren and teachers benefit from the Monterey Bay Aquarium¹s array of free school programs. Now, these programs will grow in size and impact, and find a new home.

The non-profit aquarium has acquired two connecting buildings at 585 and 625 Cannery Row, a short walk from the aquarium. One building will be transformed into a new K-12 Ocean Education and Leadership Center, focusing primarily on providing innovative and highly interactive education programs for youth and teachers. The new center will incorporate the most appropriate, cutting-edge technology for learning. The other building is being retained for future use.

“We are thrilled with this new project and looking to raise $50 million to make it possible,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “We have raised $20 million so far, allowing us to get started, but we will be looking to our community of donors and friends to help us with the rest. We are confident they will step forward in the years ahead to bring this important new center to reality.”

Science Education Needed

The aquarium’s role in science education has become increasingly important at a time when the capacity to deliver 21st century science learning is on the decline in schools. The Ocean Education and Leadership Center is expected to make a significant contribution to science education throughout the state of California.

“We have a crisis in science and environmental education right now,” Packard said. “Society’s success will depend on today¹s young people having the knowledge, skills and motivation to create solutions to very complex problems.”

The center will accommodate an increase in the number of students who can attend an aquarium education program, and also have a much deeper impact on those students. Current education programs are delivered in two small Discovery Lab classrooms and in auditorium presentations. As a result, less than half the students coming to the aquarium can have a staff-facilitated experience. The new 13,000-square-foot center will increase that number significantly, so the aquarium can help school districts better meet California’s Next Generation of Science Standards.

The center and the professional development programs planned there will also double the number of teachers who participate, accommodating more than 1,200 educators a year. Aquarium-sponsored institutes are designed to help teachers deliver ecosystem-based science education in school districts throughout the state.

Multi-Use Science Education Center

The buildings were purchased for $12.4 million, and will be significantly transformed to accommodate the expansive new education and leadership center. The purchase includes the parking lots adjacent to the buildings, to provide a safe and convenient drop-off and pick-up area for school groups.

Plans for the center include:

  • Four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning labs, each able to accommodate 40 students
  • A large multi-use space for workshops and video teleconferences
  • A new pre-aquarium orientation space and a lunch area for visiting school groups
  • Storage and supply rooms, including for new technology
  • Offices for 35 education staff and volunteers
  • A dedicated area for schoolbus pick-up and drop-off
  • Collaborative meeting spaces for staff, teachers and youth
  • Note: Classes in the new center will still be offered in conjunction with onsite education experiences at the aquarium itself.

The aquarium has retained Mark Cavagnero Associates, an award-winning San Francisco architectural firm that focuses on cultural, education, and civic projects, to transform the existing building into the new education center. The firm also specializes in creative solutions for “adaptive reuse” and is widely recognized for its sustainable building practices.

The new Ocean Education and Leadership Center is expected to open at the start of the school year in fall 2016. All current leases in the buildings will be honored, and first-floor uses will remain visitor-serving.

The nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2014, with a mission to inspire conservation of the oceans.

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