Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean: Summative Evaluation Report

January 10th, 2013 | EVALUATION

In October 2009, the Tennessee Aquarium began an ambitious program, Connecting Tennessee to the World Ocean (CTWO), funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CTWO consists of several individual projects, all intended to increase the ocean literacy of Aquarium audiences and to promote their adoption of an ocean stewardship ethic. This evaluation report summarizes the extent to which the Aquarium accomplished these goals over the 3-year project period. The five project components and their key associated evaluation findings follow. 1. Classroom-based activities. The Aquarium renovated classroom spaces, updated educational technology and teaching materials, and introduced new ocean-related programming for visiting school groups. Aquarium educators have integrated recognized best practices of science education into their programming, particularly by adopting inquiry-based, hands-on, active learning approaches to helping students learn ocean literacy and stewardship messages. Of children who participate in Aquarium programs, 84% could write at least one statement about what they had learned about the ocean during the program, and 72% could write two statements. While nearly all of the children could articulate an ocean-specific stewardship message before participating in Aquarium programs, about 51% could articulate an understanding of the importance of ocean stewardship specifically for inland persons after participation in classroom programs, compared to 41% before classroom programs. The Aquarium expanded access to ocean-related programs to underrepresented student groups by delivering programs in Title I schools; over the course of the project, 28,129 students in Title I schools participated in ocean-related programming in their own classrooms conducted by Aquarium outreach educators. Numbers of students from underrepresented populations admitted free to the Aquarium increased by 173% from 9,549 during year before CTWO to 26,080 during the final year of CTWO, far exceeding the Aquarium's goal of a 50% increase. 2. Web-based activities. The Tennessee Aquarium strengthened use of web-based media to communicate ocean literacy and stewardship messages by adding extensive ocean-related educational content to the main Aquarium website and by using social media outlets to pique web visitors' interest in the ocean and ocean life. During CTWO, the educational pages were viewed 2,877,231 times in 1,977,538 unique visits, and the Aquarium's 73 ocean-related YouTube videos were viewed 124,428 times. By the end of the project, the Aquarium had 7,982 Twitter followers and 124,068 Facebook fans, and these social media outlets generated many positive, enthusiastic responses. Many members of the Aquarium's internet audience have come to regard the Aquarium as a source of ocean-related educational content, with almost two-thirds of survey respondents saying they would visit the Tennessee Aquarium website for ocean-related information. 3. Civic engagement series. During CTWO, the Aquarium hosted six evening lectures on ocean topics, attended by an average 153 people. 75% of respondents to a follow-up survey conducted 30 - 60 days after each lecture volunteered an ocean-related response when asked to summarize the main point of the lecture, 58% could describe at least one thing they learned about the ocean or life in the ocean, and 37% could describe a specific behavioral change indicative of an ocean stewardship ethic. 4. Professional development. By the end of CTWO, 15 Aquarium staff members had participated in 29 professional development opportunities to build their capacity for delivering ocean literacy and stewardship messages to Aquarium audiences. These Aquarium staff members were able to describe a number of ways that the training they received would help them achieve CTWO goals. 5. Animal Encounters expansion. The Aquarium expanded its WetLab facility to enable the inclusion of more species and more individual animals in the Animal Encounters program, in-gallery programs that give visitors the opportunity to see animals close-up while learning about the animals from Aquarium educators. CTWO enabled the Aquarium to increase the number of animals included in Animal Encounters by 28%, the number of species by 29%, and the number of programs by 380%. By the end of the project, 92 animals of 49 species were taken into the gallery for programs an average 573 times per month. The appendix of this report includes an observation tool and surveys.



Team Members

Christopher Horne, Evaluator, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Tennessee Aquarium, Contributor


Funding Source: NOAA
Award Number: NA09SEC4690041

Related URLs


Audience: Adults | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Geoscience and geography | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Observation Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Aquarium and Zoo Programs | Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Media and Technology | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media