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NC Aquarium Outreach Program (4/22/16)

PINE KNOLL SHORES, N.C. – In 2015, the Outreach Program at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores reached more than 1,000 people world-wide without ever leaving the Crystal Coast. Educators and Outreach personnel talked with students in 21 states and six different countries including Mexico, Canada, England, Ireland, Argentina, and Bolivia in 2015. There were a total of 47 distance learning programs and a total of 1,700 participants in those distance learning programs.

            “We teach about sea turtles,” Samantha Betancur, Aquarium Outreach Coordinator, said of the Aquarium’s distance learning program, which is conducted through Skype. “A lot of the people we talk with live in places that don’t have an ocean nearby. We help spread the word about ways they can protect sea turtles and the environment around them,” she said.

            The total number of Outreach programs, including festivals, from January through December 2015 was 127. There were a total of 18,125 participants in the 2015 outreach programs.

            The Aquarium continued its Outreach with a special hospital program. Over the past several years the Aquarium has been fortunate enough to create a great relationship with the North Carolina Botanical Garden grant-funded group, Wonder Connection.

            About every four months the Aquarium travels to University of Chapel Hill Hospitals to present programs on marine invertebrates to children and families who are outpatients, cancer patients, burn victims, pediatric intensive care patients, and students at the psychiatric hospital school. Betancur said the program “brings the beach within reach” and gives many of the families a respite from their hospital rooms “and can help patients temporarily forget any worries they might have.”

            The last time Betancur took the Outreach Program to Chapel Hill there had been a man at the hospital who hadn’t spoken to anyone since he’d arrived. When the Outreach Program got there the man asked a lot of questions. “I would never have known that he hadn’t talked at all the week before,” Betancur said. “We were told it was a huge stepping stone for him because he didn’t talk to strangers and he had been mentally shut down.” She said it’s nice to come in and see people smile when you bring a touch tank to them. “Hopefully it makes a lasting impression. The hospital program is one of my favorite things to do,” she said.

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