By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There’s something new at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

It’s the “What Lives In The Harbor Program,” which is a hands-on STEM education course.

“This is such a great thing for these kids.” said John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium. “They get a chance to actually see what lives in the harbor. There are a lot of animals and plants that live in this harbor. In fact, we’ve now counted 23 species of aquatic animals and eight species of birds just on this prototype wetland.”

The hands-on STEM education course was created by the aquarium’s urban education coordinator, Symone Johnson.

“It gives them a chance to get their hands in the water and use scientific equipment. If they can get their hands on it now, my hope is they will want to go into some kind of scientific role in the future,” Johnson said.

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh joined students from William Pinderhughes Elementary/Middle School at a kick-off ceremony.

“It’s so important,” said Maryland U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “People understanding what the bay is all about, what our environment is all about, will give us a much better future of protecting the Chesapeake Bay.”

The Watershed Education Program is made possible a by a three-year $430,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“It’s tremendously exciting. This grant is one of the largest grants that’s come from NOAA to support this kind of educational program,” said Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes.

Baltimore’s National Aquarium is Maryland’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing 1.5 million tourists each year.

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