Twenty-five Norwalk teens are spending this week building hydraulic arms, making toys for an octopus, examining plankton with microscopes, collecting data on fish and crabs brought up out of Long Island Sound, and more during a free experience at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
The students – rising 8th- and 9th-graders in the Norwalk Public Schools – were selected for the Mayor’s Student Engineering & Science Program, now in its third year as part of The Maritime Aquarium’s summer youth programming.
Another 25 Norwalk students participated in an identical free camp June 26-30.
The program was created to use the unique hometown resources of The Maritime Aquarium in the hopes of improving the students’ understanding of – and enthusiasm for – science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) when they return to school in the fall.
The 2017 summer-camp programs are funded by generous contributions from Bankwell and First County Bank, as well as moneys raised from the annual Mayor’s Ball. Initial funding for the Mayor’s program came in 2015 from money raised through energy-efficiency evaluations available to Norwalk homeowners, in a program begun by the Mayor’s Energy & Environment Task Force (MEETF).
Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling said the camp involves the teens at a critical time when students often begin to tune out the sciences.
“We are so pleased to be partnering with The Maritime Aquarium in providing a summer camp experience for Norwalk’s teens,” he said. “This is an amazing opportunity for young people to learn about Long Island Sound and its inhabitants. It also will give them a much greater appreciation of this wonderful natural resource and how it contributes to our economy and tourism.”
Students applied for the summer programs this spring though their middle-school science teachers. Fifty were chosen based on need, good academic standing, their interest in engineering and/or marine sciences, and other criteria.
Each day of the 2017 camp has a different focus: animal care, ecosystems, conservation, marine technology and marine exploration. Activities include: building hydraulic arms and simple submarines; encountering live fish, crabs and other animals during a beach exploration and out on Long Island Sound aboard the Aquarium’s research vessel; designing “enrichments” for the Aquarium’s octopus; examining plankton under microscopes; going “behind-the-scenes” to see how the Aquarium operates; and more.
“This is an important program that can give these students the tools and the inspiration they need for high school and beyond,” said John Kydes, a Norwalk Common Council member and the chairman of the Mayor’s Energy & Environment Task Force. “We hope to continue this great program for years to come with the support of our donors.”
Dr. Brian Davis, president of The Maritime Aquarium, called the program one of the Aquarium’s most important annual collaborations.
“We thank the mayor, John Kydes and the Common Council for this amazing opportunity,” he said.
Davis added that he hopes the Mayor’s camp is just the first of many connections between the Aquarium and the students.
“They’re having a great week, but we want them for more than one week,” Davis said.
“There are special opportunities for older teens here; opportunities that teens in most cities do not have. We want to see them back here in high school for our free TeMPEST after-school program, which will support their academics and prepare them for life after high school. We want them back in our Volunteer program, where they’ll learn, have fun and gain poise at speaking in public while logging community-service hours for their college applications.”
The Mayor’s Student Engineering & Science Program is just one of many camps offered this summer at The Maritime Aquarium. To learn more about all of the Aquarium’s summer programs for ages 6-14, call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, or go to www.maritimeaquarium.org.