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contact: Thom Benson
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Tennessee Aquarium Earns Education Seal of Approval
Only U.S. Aquarium or Zoo Certified as Supplementary Education School

school program

Chattanooga, Tenn. (April 24th, 2008) – A room full of boisterous students fall quiet suddenly as Thad Taylor appears holding a six-inch round, green and brown lump of bumpy skin. “This is an ornate horned frog,” explains the Tennessee Aquarium educator. “They have an enormous mouth and quickly gobble up their prey. That’s how they get their nickname – the Pac-Man Frog.”

These wide-eyed students aren’t aware they’re in school and learning biology.

They may not realize visiting this unusual classroom could help them achieve a higher science score on their next standardized test, but that’s what happens when class is in session at the Tennessee Aquarium.

There may not be any desks, chalkboards or lockers in the halls, but the Tennessee Aquarium is indeed a school in every other sense of the word. “The work that we do here in our classrooms, gallery programs, distance learning, educational outreach and summer programs are tied to the state education science standards of all of the states around us as well as the national science standards,” said Tim Baker, the Aquarium’s director of education. “We want to maintain a world-class level of performance in education while connecting people with nature.”

Hard work by an experienced staff has paid off. The Tennessee Aquarium is now the only aquarium or zoo in the United States certified as a Supplementary Education School after completing a multi-phased accreditation process performed by AdvancED. This education organization is dedicated to establishing unified quality standards for education on a global level. AdvancED represents 23,000 public and private schools that serve nearly 15 million students.

This review process of the Tennessee Aquarium included:

  1. Submission of a written school assessment report
  2. A thorough campus inspection by AdvancED team members
  3. Interviews with Aquarium educators and other staff
  4. Interviews with teachers and other stakeholders

The Tennessee Aquarium’s education programs were measured against seven standards:

  1. Vision and purpose
  2. Governance and Leadership
  3. Teaching and Learning
  4. Documenting and Using Results
  5. Resource and Support Systems
  6. Stakeholder Communications and Relationships
  7. Commitment to Continuous Improvement 

The Tennessee Aquarium’s report card from AdvancED was straight A’s (Highly Functional) in five of the seven standards, and B’s (Operational) in the two others.  “One thing they observed was our passion to educate and that really points to our staff. But the assessment team was also impressed with our distance learning and our educational outreach efforts,” said Baker.

The AdvancED Review Team also commended the Tennessee Aquarium for the following accomplishments:

  • Best Environmental Education Course – a graduate level course taught at Alabama A&M
  • Informal Environmental Educator of the Year – Chattanooga Environmental Educators Association
  • Participation in the Hamilton County Museum Magnet Program
  • Providing more than $400,000 in free educational programs and services for schools and the community in 2007.

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The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $19.95 per adult and $12.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $25.95 for adults and $17.95 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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