By Cris McCullough
Save the Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium located at Easton’s Beach in Newport, RI, has been teaching visitors about the abundance and variety of sea life found in Narragansett Bay since 2006. The mission of the Exploration Center is to impart an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of sea life and how the health of our oceans affects our own wellbeing on shore. Through its many outreach programs, Save the Bay invites citizens to participate in the work to protect and improve the Bay. Most of those visitors are children, whose first encounter touching a sand shark or horseshoe crab at the Aquarium’s touch tank has often blossomed into a lifelong dedication to supporting the environmental health of the Bay; from this, we can see that Save the Bay is for the children.
Grooming the next generation of Bay stewards
I spoke to Katy Dorchies Nutini, Director of Communications and Marketing for Save the Bay about how the organization encourages lifelong learning and commitment to the environment.
“We believe that by creating and nurturing meaningful Bay experiences, we can help young people across the watershed understand why this shared natural resource is so important. Through our boat, school, field and aquarium-based school and afterschool programs, we engage more than 13,000 students a year in our hands-on and interactive educational programming” Katie said. “Hundreds more visit our aquarium, attend shoreline cleanups, and join us on seal tours with their families. We believe that these experiential encounters with the Bay leave a lasting impression on young people and start a lifelong connection to Narragansett Bay.”
In 2023, future expansion: blooming from beach to the city center
When asked about the planned expansion, Katie continued, “While the beachside location offers plenty of benefits, it also presents several challenges. With accelerated sea-level rise and increasingly severe coastal storms, the site is vulnerable to flooding and other damages. When Superstorm Sandy came through in 2012, the flooding was so extreme that it took us months to rebuild the space. We’ve known since then that we needed to identify a new site that was not only more secure but also gave us the room we needed to continue to grow the aquarium—and the Gateway Center, located on America’s Cup Blvd. in the center of Newport, offered the perfect opportunity. Closer proximity to public transportation can assist the facilitation of access to more guests and residents and new classroom space, will enable the organization to serve more students from schools across Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts and expand summer camp offerings. The opportunity for community partnerships also means that we have the opportunity to introduce new cultural programs, and enables us to explore special pricing models for low-income families.”
Deepening the connection between adults, children and the Bay
Katie went on to explain how, “the new Aquarium will offer more in-depth information about the Bay that puts the critical nature of protecting this natural resource into context for adult guests, and connect visitors with opportunities to become members of Save The Bay and participate in our volunteer program. With more space, we’re also exploring the opportunity of developing a lecture series in partnership with like-minded organizations, the purpose of which will be to dive into different areas of the Bay’s history and use. When families learn together, they can build a culture of caring about the Bay and make sure that they are making decisions at home that benefit the Bay.”
Save the Bay is for the children
While work continues to complete exhibit designs and engineering the life support systems that keep all the species in the aquarium healthy, there is still work to be done. The new Exploration center is due to open in late spring of 2023, making the dream a reality. Meanwhile, visitors can continue to have an up-close and personal experience with ocean life all summer long at Easton’s Beach in Newport, helping to create future eco-supporters one child at a time.