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Photo Story: NOAA Education and partner aquariums gather for 3rd collaborative workshop

If you were to step into the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the Shedd Aquarium, or the Vancouver Aquarium, you would see different fish species, interactive touch tanks, and unique aquatic exhibits on display. But despite this variety, you might be surprised to find similar messages about protecting coastal and marine ecosystems at these different institutions. This is no coincidence. With support from NOAA, these organizations are part of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network, a consortium of 27 aquariums and marine science centers from across North America.

From October 23-25, 2019, NOAA’s Office of Education hosted the third CELC Network Workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here, take a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when aquarium education directors meet up to discuss priorities and work together to engage the public in ocean and coastal conservation.

At the third in-person CELC Workshop on October 23, aquarium education directors and NOAA Office of Education staff gather at the opening reception at NOAA’s Science On a Sphere in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here, participants reconnect over food and learn more about Science On a Sphere, an interactive visualization tool.
At the third in-person CELC Workshop on October 23, aquarium education directors and NOAA Office of Education staff gather at the opening reception at NOAA’s Science On a Sphere in Silver Spring, Maryland. Here, participants reconnect over food and learn more about Science On a Sphere, an interactive visualization tool. (Maggie Allen, NOAA)

This was the third in-person workshop for the network since 2016. This year, the workshop began with an opening reception at NOAA’s Science On a Sphere®, where participants reconnected with one another over food while sharing the latest news from their own organizations. Aquarium education directors had a chance to learn more about Science On a Sphere, an interactive visualization tool used to help illustrate Earth System science to people of all ages.

Aquarium education directors and NOAA Office of Education staff discuss strategies and working groups of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center Network at a two-day workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Aquarium education directors and NOAA Office of Education staff discuss strategies and working groups of the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center Network at a two-day workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Maggie Allen, NOAA)

No collaborative planning meeting would be complete without flip charts and sticky notes! Using both small notes and huge poster boards, workshop participants wrote, discussed, and strategized scenarios to evaluate the network’s successes and challenges. Participants discussed potential future collaborations, including expanding various working groups, leading a youth summit, and spearheading an aquaculture initiative.

The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network poses with speakers from across NOAA during a CELC collaborative workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network poses with speakers from across NOAA during a CELC collaborative workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (NOAA)

Networking is what CELC does best, so why not take advantage of being so close to the nation’s capital, where plenty of environmental organization headquarters reside? The group did just that, and connected with NOAA educators and experts, as well as with representatives from other federal agencies and nonprofits. The U.N. Environment Program, the National Science Foundation, and Conservation International were just some of the institutions that presented and mingled with the education directors to share resources and discuss future collaborative efforts.

 

After a two-day collaborative workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, aquarium educators pretend to “take a dive” into NOAA’s wave pool! By the end of the meeting, participants went back to their homes with strengthened relationships and new ideas about how to improve their own institutions and also the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network.
After a two-day collaborative workshop at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, aquarium educators pretend to “take a dive” into NOAA’s wave pool! By the end of the meeting, participants went back to their homes with strengthened relationships and new ideas about how to improve their own institutions and also the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network. (Kayla do Couto, NOAA)

Aquarium educators “took a dive” into NOAA’s expansive resources! By the end of the workshop, they filled their minds (and their suitcases!) with resources and tools to take back to their institutions. Armed with strengthened relationships and new ideas about how to improve both their own institutions' programs as well as those of the CELC Network, they’re already talking about plans and ideas to further build the partnership and are looking forward to the next workshop in 2021. Jonathan Ismail of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium said, “This workshop was exceptionally helpful to connect the dots between other partner CELC facilities, shared conservation and youth programs, and the wonderful resources available through NOAA and other federal agencies.  I am so thankful for the wonderful experience to learn from and with your team!”

The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network logo.
The Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network logo. (NOAA)
 
November 4, 2019