Making the Grade: After School Aquarium

An after-school program in Boston is igniting children's imaginations with ocean science.

C2O, Communities Connecting to the Ocean, is a partnership between six Boston-based groups -- including the Franklin Park Tenants Association in Dorchester -- and the New England Aquarium.

"I definitely love seeing the excited faces, just seeing them really get engaged," said Erik Michel, Program Educator with the aquarium.

Once a week, Michel works with students on their vocabulary while familiarizing them with the natural environment at their fingertips.

"Boston is a big city, and unfortunately, a lot of the kids don't get to get right to the ocean, even though they're right next to it," said Cara Mahoney, New England Aquarium Student Program Supervisor.

C2O incorporates reading, writing, and science lessons to get kids enthusiastic about learning at a young age.

"I want to see cool animals, how they eat, discovering new body parts of them, and discovering new animals I haven't seen before," said 10-year-old Wilkens Georges.

Those animals range from jellyfish to horseshoe crabs.

"They have a very high energy when they come here," said Juanita Pitts, Vice President and Programming Director of the Franklin Park Tenants Association. "It's a special part of the day for them that they know this happens every week at the same time each week."

The program offers a chance to hook kids on science and reading in a fun, interactive setting.

"I'm from the City of Boston, I grew up here, graduated whole public school system. So being able to see kids who come from the same walks of life that I have and then have the same type of interest in that and excitement is pretty cool," Michel said.

C2O lasts for six weeks and is made possible thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. This spring and summer, the students will have a chance to leave the classroom and head to the ocean for field trips that include the beach, Boston Harbor Islands and the aquarium. 

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