Empowerment Through Experience

Henry Hall Summer Scholars experience hands-on learning, beyond Baltimore.

Through the National Aquarium's Henry Hall Summer Scholars camp program, Baltimore students trade city neighborhoods for natural environments and gain a deeper understanding of the connection we share with water.

By connecting to the world outside their Baltimore classrooms, students become inspired to care for our blue planet in a way that simply isn't possible through a textbook. Students gain hands-on experience at conservation-themed camps around the country—from Maine to Florida to Louisiana to Maryland—at no cost to their families through this endowment-funded opportunity.

Henry Hall campers embody the heart of the National Aquarium's mission to connect people with nature to inspire compassion and care for our ocean planet. These are their stories.


Henry Hall campers traveled to Maine to discover the wildlife and habitats found along the rocky coastline.

Building Fearless Leaders

In Maine, Shatera found the courage to uncover her inner leader, discovering that outside the classroom, it's more important to do than to know—and better to lead than to follow.

"That's what I really do take away from this program; you don't have to be perfect, you don't have to know everything, because every day, every step is just a new learning experience. I love that about Henry Hall."

A Seabird Success Story

Henry Hall students observed the world's first restored colony of Atlantic puffins, which nests on the coastal islands of Maine every year.

Hunters decimated these charismatic seabirds from their nesting areas here during the 1880s, but conservationists brought the iconic puffin back to Maine's coastal islands, where immense granite boulders provide ideal protection for vulnerable puffin nests.

For all its stunning biodiversity, the tidal pool environment is a harsh one. As water recedes during low tide, the animals left in these pockets of life are exposed to the elements—increasing water temperature as the sun beats down, as well as seabirds and other predators that patrol the shore, looking to pluck their next meal. As high tide moves in, animals here must survive the crashing waves, often by adhering themselves to rocks. Take barnacles, for example, which produce a cement that is among the most powerful adhesives found in nature.


In the Florida Keys, Henry Hall campers explored two hotspot habitats for biodiversity: a coral reef and a mangrove forest.

Make Yourself Proud

Tia went outside her comfort zone to explore the unknown in the Florida Keys, learning the importance of following her passions and being proud of herself.

"You get to be yourself and find yourself—and be proud of who you are."

Snorkeling at Sombrero

The idyllic Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of more than a dozen protected underwater parks nationwide. Coral reefs, such as the one in Sombrero Key, support a stunning amount of biodiversity. An estimated one-third of all saltwater fishes spend at least part of their lives on coral reefs.

The benefits that mangrove forests provide extend beyond ecological—these unique ecosystems have economic value, too. As juveniles, commercially important fish species find protection from predators among the twisted, interwoven roots before venturing to coral reefs and other habitats as they age. The protection offered by the mangrove forests for these species is critical, allowing adult populations that fisheries depend on to flourish.


From swampy wetlands to open ocean water, Henry Hall students explored aquatic ecosystems in Louisiana and learned about the animals that live there.

Gaining Perspective

Connecting with the natural world in Louisiana allowed Krystal, John and Alexis to develop a fresh outlook on learning and life.

"Just seeing all the different animals in their environments—it's fascinating to see how our world works on a natural scale."

A Renowned Reptile

The American alligator bounced back from near extinction from overharvest for their skins and meat. Once protections were in place for this iconic species, the extensive marshy freshwater swamp habitats of Louisiana provided refuge for enough alligators to rebuild their populations.

As climate change warms the planet, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and ocean water is expanding, leading to sea level rise in coastal areas around the globe. According to data from the tidal station here, Grand Isle, Louisiana, is experiencing one of the highest rates of relative sea level rise in the world: a rate of about 3 feet every 100 years. It's not only the rising ocean that's contributing to the high rate of sea level rise on Louisiana's coast, however; a major contributing factor is the slow sinking of the land, called subsidence.


Henry Hall students traveled to the Chesapeake Bay to discover the ecological importance of the nation's largest estuary.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Swapping the fast pace of city life for the tranquility of the Chesapeake Bay allowed Nigel to relax, reflect and reconnect with nature.

"When you come out here with no electronics and you just sit here, it gives you a whole lot of time to think about things."

Crustacean of the Chesapeake

As blue crabs molt—or shed—their hard exoskeletons, they temporarily enter a soft shell stage, when they're most vulnerable to predators. It's during this stage that both young and adult blue crabs seek refuge among the underwater grasses that grow on the shallow bottom areas of the Bay. Polluted stormwater runoff that enters the Bay contains excess nutrients that fuel harmful algal blooms, which block sunlight from reaching these grasses, hindering their survival—and negatively impacting the Bay's population of blue crabs.

Early settlers to the Chesapeake Bay region reported oyster reefs jutting from the Bay's floor that were so massive, they posed hazards to their ships. Fast forward to present day, and oyster reefs aren't nearly as plentiful, but they still provide the same critical ecological function that they always have.

Think of oyster reefs as the Chesapeake Bay's equivalent to coral reefs—a three-dimensional structure that provide shelter, spawning, refuge, nursery and foraging habitat to a variety of species. From microscopic bacteria growing on oyster shells to large fish hunting for prey, a stunning array of Bay biodiversity relies on oyster reefs.

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