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October 21, 2015

NASA commits $6.5M to Gulf of Maine Research Institute for climate change education

Courtesy / Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Courtesy / Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Gulf of Maine Research Institute on Commercial Street in Portland

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland is receiving a $6.5 million grant from NASA to create a new educational program focused on science knowledge and problem-solving related to climate change.

The grant will allow the nonprofit organization to upgrade the technical infrastructure at its Sam L. Cohen Center for Interactive Learning in Portland to deliver the new educational content to the 10,000 Maine 5th and 6th graders who visit each year, GMRI announced Tuesday. The organization will also making the educational programing web-accessible to visitors in other science centers and classrooms in Maine and nationwide.

Through customization of the new content from GMRI's educational program, LabVenture!, the programming will allow students to investigate how climate change is affecting their local region and the rest of the world. The five-year grant, which will begin Nov. 1, will be shared with national science education partners.

Work at GMRI will begin immediately, and new programming content is expected to be available for the 2018-2019 school year.

Leigh Peake, GMRI's chief education officer, said in a statement that the NASA grant gives it a new direction for the education program in terms of content and national reach. The organization's research lab and interactive learning center opened in 2005.

Maine's U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King applauded the educational; funding for the organization in statements.

"Educating our state's future leaders on the environmental and economic impacts of warming waters and sea level rise is important for the future of our state," said Collins, a Republican. "This investment will support innovative educational opportunities for Maine's students and community engagement efforts by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute."

King, an independent, said collaboration with NASA is another example of GMRI scientists' and educators' forward-thinking leadership.

"GMRI's work to equip students and teachers with interactive science and technology will help inspire the next generation of scientists and, ultimately, advance our knowledge of climate change. With the changes we're seeing in the Gulf of Maine and around the globe, this mission has never been more important," King said.

A 2014 study by the research institute, which looks for solutions to challenges related to ocean stewardship and economic growth in the Gulf of Maine, found that the Gulf of Maine's waters are warming up faster than than 99% of the world's other large bodies of saltwater.

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