An aquarium for Brunswick? This is the vision of two science teachers at Brunswick’s High School.

Andrew McCullough and Sue Perkins are planning to turn an abandoned 55-gallon tank into a learning tool for students pre-K and beyond. They recently received a grant from the Brunswick Community Education Foundatio, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to supporting K-12 students and teachers in Brunswick. Theirs is just one of 20 projects that received over $26,000 in total. It is also one of the first multi-year grants to be awarded, giving the teachers the flexibility to think longer term. Perkins and McCullough’s vision extends not only beyond their own classrooms to include other grades in the district, including preschoolers when the new Kate Furbish Elementary opens in 2020, but also to include students at the Midcoast Senior College, a life-long learning institution for seniors in the greater Midcoast area. They see mentoring opportunities for their students in both directions – for the youngest students in our town as well as the oldest. “The best way to learn is to teach. This aquarium offers us the chance to assist older and younger students with multidirectional approaches to educating their peers and, in the process, learn more themselves,” says McCullough.

The aquarium project is an outgrowth of an applied marine science curriculum that Andrew McCullough has been developing for the past several years. Back in 2106, he and Rick Wilson, BHS’s Community Service/Outreach Service Learning Educator, were looking for ways to give their students hands-on science experience. They partnered with the Town of Brunswick to establish an area at Wharton Point, just down the road from the High School, where students could experiment with growing soft shell clams. A University of Maine grant helped get the project off the ground by funding the purchase of appropriate mud gear like hip boots and waders along with supplies to build predator enclosures on the flats. Maine Sea Grant provided funding for scientific instruments and the design and printing of interpretive posters that are on display at what has now been dubbed “Brunswick’s Outdoor Classroom” at the Wharton Point site. In the project’s second season, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund funded the purchase of a weather station and BCEF funded building materials and clam seed.

Now, going on three years later, the question was how to build on this momentum. There were obvious scientific directions like studying environmental factors and doing more specific predation experiments. And there were opportunities to use the project as a marine science career-training module. But, the most recent grant takes things in a different direction — its focus is on the intergenerational connections made possible through education. The project has garnered much enthusiasm over the last few years from other teachers in the district, so the idea to expand the reach to other grade levels was natural. There is already a Casco Bay Studies Unit at the Junior High School where students learn hands-on marine science – another project that BCEF has helped to support. And with the plans for the Kate Furbish Elementary to include a salt-water aquarium, there was a clear opportunity there as well.

But the interest in the project had a broader scope. People from the community saw the posters at Wharton Point and asked questions and they followed the project blog to see what the students were up to ( At the recent Shellfish Focus Day at the Maine Fish Forum, fishermen, teachers and scientists alike all stopped to see the video of Brunswick’s student project. It was obvious that there was potential to reach people of all ages within and even beyond our community. To that end, Perkins and McCullough applied for an additional grant from the Maine Community Foundation. This funding would allow their students to work with those from the Midcoast Senior College as well as the Gills Club, a national STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education initiative of the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. The Gills Club connects young girls ages 8-12 with female marine scientists around the world to learn about ocean conservation. Perkins and McCullough hope that their new aquarium will be one of the club’s site visits.

As Perkins summed up nicely, “We’d like to create a true multigenerational culture of marine science education in our community.” With the grant from the Brunswick Community Education Foundation, they will be able to get the aquarium up and running and will soon be involving students across the district, and they are hopeful that the Maine Community Foundation grant will help them build upon that even further to share this amazing new educational resource.

If you’re interested in learning more about this grant, please visit BCEF’s website,, or come support this and other fantastic grants in our schools by attending their annual celebratory event, The Spark, at The Frontier on April 6, 7-10 p.m. Tickets are on sale at

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