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Charleston aquarium launches expansion project after $2M gift

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The Boeing Learning Lab at the Maritime Center will be the Charleston peninsula’s first waterfront multidisciplinary learning center. (Photo/Provided)

A $2 million gift from Boeing will allow the South Carolina Aquarium to expand its education programming.

The Boeing Learning Lab at the Maritime Center will be the Charleston peninsula’s first waterfront multidisciplinary learning center, according to a news release from the aquarium.

The opening of the Boeing Learning Lab in 2024 will revolutionize the way the community connects with the natural world, enabling the aquarium to expand their reach and offer thousands more students free, STEM education programming with the Charleston waterfront serving as their backdrop, the release stated.

“The place where sky meets water will become their classroom; they’ll breathe in the salty air and experience the sights and sounds of the Charleston Harbor," Brian Thill, director of education at the aquarium, said in the release. "For some, this may be their first or only trip to the coast; For others, this will be the catalyst that leads them to becoming the next generation of conservation stewards and STEM professionals.”

Over the years, the aquarium has worked to expand programming to better serve the community with offerings for early as well as lifelong learning, teen programming, statewide education outreach, virtual programs and student internships, the release stated. Currently, classroom space within the Aquarium limits how many students can visit; the aquarium must turn away two out of every three students that apply to the free Dominion Energy School Programs, a core standards-based education and field trip experience for students of South Carolina.

Now, bolstered by Boeing’s leadership gift, the aquarium team will have indoor and outdoor multidisciplinary classroom spaces to double the number of students served annually, the release stated.

Within the Learning Lab, the aquarium will deliver a robust slate of education programming and partner with scientists and researchers to deliver groundbreaking interactive presentations on diverse conservation and resilience topics, the release stated. The Learning Lab will serve as an experiential learning hub for current education programs — Dominion Energy School Programs, Virtual Programs, Education Outreach, High School Intern Program and more — and will act as the launchpad for new offerings to better serve students across the state in the future.   

The location of the Boeing Learning Lab is uniquely positioned to unlock the waterfront for the greater Charleston area, the release stated. It will be available as a meeting space for organizations and businesses to collaborate and better serve the community.

“The Boeing Company and the South Carolina Aquarium both share similar passions for sustainability, conservation and STEM education, and the development of the Boeing Learning Lab was a natural extension of our longstanding partnership,” said Lindsay Leonard, senior director of Government Operation for Boeing, in the release. “The Lab will promote conservation through education, awareness and connection to the natural environment. Its prime Harbor location, adjacent to the International African American Museum, will allow students and adults alike to benefit from several immersive educational experiences now available along Charleston’s waterfront.”  

Reach Jason at 864-568-7570.

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