The Center for Aquatic Sciences was founded in 1989 and has since been advancing the understanding of and concern for aquatic animals and their habitats. The Center’s mission is: “education and youth development through promoting the understanding, appreciation and protection of aquatic life and habitats.” In performing this mission, the Center strives to be a responsible member of the community, assisting in its economic and social redevelopment by providing opportunities for education, enrichment and employment.
Formerly the New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences, the Center changed its name on August 14, 2014. This name change was instituted to reflect the organization’s enhanced mission focus and strengthened educational partnership with Adventure Aquarium. While our name changed, our legal status as a not-for-profit and our mission did not. The change will allow us to look forward to expanding our service offerings, increasing our geographic reach and facilitating new collaborations in the future.
Education programs include programs for school groups in our on-site classrooms and aquarium auditorium, including inclusion programs for special needs students and those on the autism spectrum. Additionally tours, scout programs, the Deep Sleep overnight program, and teacher professional development workshops all engage visitors in aquarium-based educational opportunities. Furthermore, the Center also serves the 900,000 visitors to Adventure Aquarium each year through interpretive exhibit signage, conservation messaging and an interactive kiosk.
The Center also partners with schools in both Camden and Philadelphia to embed programs during the school day and to facilitate quality educational after-school experiences. As part of a team teaching biology and AP environmental science courses, the Center strengthens the in-school experience for the students by developing lesson plans and providing expertise both in the classroom and on field trips. The Center also develops, manages and implements afterschool science education programs with multiple schools as a partner in 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
The Center has a commitment to underserved inner-city communities in both Camden and Philadelphia. Since 1992, the Center has been a founding member of PISEC (Philadelphia-Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative). The other members of PISEC are The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute Science Museum, and The Philadelphia Zoo. PISEC has operated continuously for more than twenty years and undertaken several long term projects funded by the National Science Foundation to connect underserved families with informal learning opportunities.
We are also the lead organization of the Camden Urban Waters Community Awareness Partnership (CUWCAP), a strategic alliance of organizations that work closely with the Camden community to engage residents in issues concerning their local waterways. The Center is working with several other organizations, as well as utilizing the CAUSE youth, to encourage Camden residents to take an active role in the quality of their watersheds.
The Center’s flagship program is CAUSE (Community and Urban Science Enrichment). CAUSE is a many-faceted science enrichment program for children and youth. The program has been extremely successful, boasting a 100% high school graduation rate and for the last few years a 100% college enrollment rate (up from 95% in previous years), and has gained local and regional attention as a model for comprehensive, inner-city youth development programs, focusing on intense academics and mentoring for a manageable number of youth.
Each one of these programs relates back to our mission to promote the understanding, appreciation, and protection of aquatic life and habitats for all audiences, and also underlines our commitment to the people of the city of Camden and Philadelphia.