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Rye Student Secures Grant to Connect Carver Center Campers with The Maritime Aquarium

PORT CHESTER, NY – About 125 kids at The Carver Center are sharing their summer program with live crabs and turtles, toothy shark jaws and other tools for teaching marine science, thanks to the initiative of a young volunteer at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.

Brian Cottani, a senior at Rye High School, played matchmaker, after seeing the interest at The Carver Center and the opportunities available through The Maritime Aquarium, the family-fun attraction in Connecticut where he volunteers.

Cottani was able to secure a $1,000 grant from McGraw Hill Financial to partially fund a weekly presentation by Aquarium educators in The Carver Center's July summer camp.

"I have always loved marine biology and saw an opportunity through my volunteer work at The Maritime Aquarium to share that with kids that might not otherwise have the chance to experience what I did as a kid," Cottani said.

The Maritime Aquarium commonly sends educators out to schools, libraries, community centers and even birthday parties in the tri-state area through its Traveling Teacher program. An estimated 40,000 students each year learn by having educators – and often live animals – from The Maritime Aquarium come to them. Traveling Teacher programs are used by schools before, after and in lieu of Aquarium field trips.

Jacqueline Pezzullo, The Carver Center's director of youth programs, said the non-profit center could afford to bus the 125 campers to the Aquarium for only one visit this summer. So it's a huge bonus to have the Aquarium come to the center and augment the camp's STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) component with the weekly Traveling Teacher initiative.

"We appreciate Brian's initiative in partnering with The Maritime Aquarium to bring this new enrichment program to our children at The Carver Center," Pezzullo said. "When Brian approached us with the idea of bringing specific Aquarium exhibits and educators to our center, we were thrilled because we were planning a STEM focus for our academic work this summer and the Ocean Explorer theme fit perfectly in reinforcing the science curriculum."

Plus, she added, connecting with the marine world is always a highlight for the campers.

"By bringing The Maritime Aquarium resources to Carver Center's summer program, we are able to provide the children a more focused experience and also bring marine-biology concepts to a greater number of children," she said.

Aquarium educators are visiting The Carver Center each Wednesday in July, presenting programs on such topics as sharks, intertidal animals, water pollution and turtles. Live animals come along, when possible.

Pezzullo is optimistic about future programs by The Maritime Aquarium at The Carver Center.

"The summer presentations have not only helped the immediate community of students in our program but will help the broader student community of Port Chester as Brian has committed to working with us to expand the program to our local schools as after-school enrichments in the fall," she said.

Cottani said he's grateful for the oppportunity "to partner with such an outstanding organization like The Carver Center, whose goals and values I share."

"I am also grateful to The Maritime Aquarium for their interest and support for this program and also to McGraw Hill Financial, who cosponsored this initiative with a grant through their Community Outreach Network," he said.

The Carver Center is the primary community-based organization in the village of Port Chester. The center offers programs and resources designed to meet the educational, recreational, cultural and civic needs of children, youth and adults, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of underprivileged youth. Learn more at www.carvercenter.org.

The Maritime Aquarium is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to educate visitors about – and to create stewards for – Long Island Sound. It accomplishes this by allowing visitors to get close to more than 250 species native to the Sound and its watershed, including sharks, seals, sea turtles, river otters and jellyfish. One of the top places for family fun in Connecticut, the Aquarium features hands-on educational programs and displays, public study cruises out onto the Sound, and Connecticut's largest IMAX movie theater, with a screen that's six stories high.

Learn more at www.maritimeaquarium.org or (203) 852-0700.

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