Ocean Explorium Leads the Way

NEW BEDFORD, MA (October 26, 2011) —

“The Ocean Explorium in New Bedford is a shining example of innovative science education in action” applauded Secretary of Education, Dr. Paul Reville, at last Tuesday’s STEM Summit in Boston.

Dr. Reville made a point of singling out and highlighting the Ocean Explorium as a model for informal learning in the STEM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Coming from the Secretary of Education of Massachusetts—a state rippling with educational institutions and initiatives—this is high praise indeed, and is yet further validation of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Jean MacCormack’s vision for education in downtown New Bedford.

The Ocean Explorium is clearly making the right moves. The recent recipient of a grant from the National Science Foundation—in partnership with the University of Massachusetts’ Center for University and School Partnerships and six areas schools, which include he Global Learning Charter Pubic School—the Ocean Explorium has been pushing the boundaries of conventional education.

“Students today feel disenfranchised, disconnected … so they are disengaged” exclaims Abbey Spargo, Director of the Ocean Explorium. “We need to reinvigorate their innate curiosity. What better way than with live exhibits and real life science … a truly hand-on / minds-on model? This approach engages students at a level that old textbooks on dusty shelves can never attain”.

“We need to connect to students at the most basic, visceral level” says Annette Brickley, Education Manager. “Our living exhibits and our interactive programs do just that.”

“In addition … we offer practical, framework-consistent experiences that teachers can feel confident will aid their students as they make their way through the rigors of secondary education” states Brickley.

“And of course there is our professional development program, the Ocean Academy” interjects Spargo. “We have now reached over half the teachers in New Bedford. The Ocean Explorium re-awakens their innate curiosity too.”

Spargo has reason to be enthusiastic. Harvard University, MIT and the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution are among those who have sought out partnerships with the Ocean Explorium in recognition of its innovative K-12 learning models, its teacher academy and its public outreach programs. Of course the team at the Ocean Explorium is pleased that one of its earliest partners was New Bedford’s very own School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), yet another ground-breaking extension of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“It is gratifying to be acknowledged by Dr. Paul Reville” Spargo reflects. “All the hard work … our team … the educators, interns and volunteers … all that hard work has not been in vain. We are making a difference.”

At a time when many educational institutions are besieged with cut backs and student attainment continues to be a challenge—especially in gateway cities—it is a rewarding to hear a positive story emanating from the very heart of New Bedford.

The Ocean Explorium, located at 174 Union Street in Downtown New Bedford, is open Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and is handicap accessible through the building’s rear entrance.