Monday night, the Post & Courier received a letter to the editor stating that the South Carolina Aquarium is not equally accessible to children of all backgrounds. Read the letter here.
Please see the response of our President and CEO, Kevin Mills, and Chairman of the Board, Jonathan Zucker:
A recent letter to the editor suggested that the South Carolina Aquarium does not provide access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This could not be further from the truth.
Each year, thousands of schoolchildren from around the state enjoy free STEM curriculum in our classrooms. This award-winning program was developed in partnership with educators and administrators to align with state and national science standards. Because of limited classroom capacity, we intentionally weight admission to schools that demonstrate a higher population of children who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. In addition, we offer a deeply discounted school group admission for other schools visiting on field trips, and we supplement their visit with free educational resources.
Our ongoing partnerships with organizations like MUSC, Charleston Promise Neighborhood, Meeting Street Academies, Chucktown Squash, First Day Festival and others have helped to increase access to communities in need. We are grateful for community support of our Angelfish Fund, which makes these opportunities possible.
Of course, we recognize that many schools are simply unable to visit the Aquarium due to distance or cost. For several years, our Aquarium Rovers outreach program has taken educators and animals to schools, community centers, public libraries, hospitals and other public venues around the state. We also are field testing new distance learning technology and virtual reality programs, thanks to community supporters like Boeing.
While we appreciate the accommodations tax grants and other capital allocations we have received over the years from local and state governments, the fact remains that we receive no recurrent tax support for operations. Our annual budget is derived from our earned revenue and is supported by generous contributions.
Since opening in 2000, the South Carolina Aquarium has served more than one million students. Our commitment to STEM education for all our children reflects our belief that transformative learning experiences can pave the way to careers in the natural sciences and create a sustained passion for the natural world.
Kevin Mills, President and CEO
Jonathan Zucker, Chairman of the Board