Grantee Update: Gulf of Maine Research Institute
In 2004, a Sam L. Cohen Foundation grant of $300,000 provided transformational support to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI). The Foundation Initiated Grant supported GMRI’s education initiative, LabVenture!, in a new Sam L. Cohen Center for Interactive Learning (SLCCIL). GMRI has grown rapidly since opening the laboratory and education center in 2005. What began as a staff of fewer than 20 and an operating budget of $3.5 million is now an $11 million annual operation that employs more than 70 scientists, seafood experts, and education professionals. Since the SLCF grant in 2004, the Foundation has made grants to GMRI to ensure that students from York County experience the SLCCIL and most recently to support the staff position to lead a complete re-design of the SLCCIL. To date more than 120,000 Maine students have visited the SLCCIL. On June 1, students from Bonny Eagle Middle School in Standish were the last group to experience the former layout of the SLCCIL. This summer, with the help of a $6.5 million grant from NASA, the Sam L. Cohen Center for Interactive Learning will be transformed into a new, higher-tech interactive experience for Maine’s 5th and 6th graders.
When the Center re-opens on September 21, the SLCCIL will feature a mix of both high- and low-tech methods and real-life scientific inquiry where students gather data, test theories, and compare evidence regarding fish and marine life in the Gulf of Maine. The new SLCCIL will have a two-story, wall-sized topographical map of the Gulf of Maine and state-of-the-art projection technology to broadcast data and video streams on a panorama screen. Students will work in teams at table-top touch screens where they will perform virtual experiments, like dissecting black sea bass to determine whether their diets are impacting lobster population, and compare their findings to data collected by GMRI scientists. Students are introduced through video to a variety of experts including GMRI’s lead scientist, a Maine lobsterman who has an academic background in science, and a doctoral candidate who is studying the impact of black sea bass on lobster in the Gulf of Maine. The re-designed SLCCIL has the potential to reach thousands of school children over the next decade, and more than 50% of GMRI’s school-aged visitors come from York and Cumberland County. In addition to school audiences, GRMI plans to extend the reach of the SLCCIL to include adult learners through new programs and events hosted there.
GMRI celebrates the new Sam L. Cohen Center for Interactive Learning in conjunction with the conclusion of a separate fundraising campaign for operating and endowment funds. That campaign launched in 2014 and created endowments to fund leadership positions, research scientists, and transportation costs for student visits to the SLCCIL. The endowment campaign concluded this summer when GMRI met its $22.8 million campaign goal.
2018 Sam L. Cohen Pioneer Scholars
The Pioneer Scholar Program, a partnership between supporters and the Mitchell Institute, provides the opportunity to recognize specific Mitchell Scholars and Alumni who, through their contributions to school and community and their demonstration of certain qualities – as students and as citizens – stand out for acknowledgement.
Habso Omane - Portland High School * Smith College
Syeda Washima Fairoz - Biddeford High School * Mount Holyoke College
Luke Gosselin - Thornton Academy * University of Maine
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