In 2010, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) had the pleasure of seeing some new faces at several restoration events: Aquarium on Wheels students! The Aquarium on Wheels program (AOW) is the National Aquarium’s after-school work-study program offered to high school students in Baltimore City and County. Approximately 20 students participate in the program each year. The main focus of the program is for the students to learn about an environmental topic, write an environmental play, and perform the play at the Enoch Pratt Free Libraries through the library’s summer reading program. Along the way, students learn about career opportunities in the aquarium field and how to make environmentally responsible decisions. Through field experiences, the students have a stronger depth of knowledge to pull from while writing and performing their plays. Participation in hands-on field events is a natural addition to the AOW program because, as student Jordan Green explains, “We are a conservation-education-based group.”
AOW students participated in several events this past year, including debris cleanups at our Fort McHenry Field Days, the planting and launching of our floating wetland this summer, and a dune restoration project in Virginia Beach in November. It is clear that the youths are really taking the experiences to heart.
AOW member Teryn Dixon says participating in conservation events “expands on the classroom activities that we normally participate in. It gives more meaning to what we learned, and gives us a chance to get out of the classroom.” Bri’Anna Horne adds, “Helping the environment is one of the goals of the job. So we should, in a way, practice what we preach.” The hands-on aspect really hits home for Chanel Moore: “It makes me grasp the whole idea, and I love going outside and actually doing the work. Instead of being told about it, I get to experience it.”
These dedicated, insightful students have plenty of advice to offer when it comes to helping the environment and persuading others to join in the conservation fun! Shane Cromwell explains, “Helping the environment is a community problem,” and participating in hands-on work “makes you feel like you are actually being a part of the solution.” Looking to the future, AOW student Kierra Winston says, “Finally, when the Bay is restored, you can feel a sense of accomplishment.” Please join us for a restoration event in 2011, and keep an eye out for Aquarium on Wheels students lending a hand. After all, in the words of AOW member Teal Hinton, “Four hours of work will make a lifetime of difference.”