|BP and CBEE partner to open Sea, Sand and Stars Center to the public|
June 9, 2012 - ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (OBA) - Thanks to a grant from BP, one of the area’s best kept secrets will be open to the public for the first time this summer. The Sea, Sand and Stars Interactive Learning Center at Orange Beach Elementary School will open its doors to the general public July 16 through 20 as part of the facility’s Gulf Coast Adventure week. The announcement was made May 18 at the facility with representatives from BP, Baldwin County Public Schools and the Coastal Baldwin Educational Enrichment Foundation present.
“Supporting education is a critical part of our business and we are proud to be able to partner with the Coastal Baldwin Educational Enrichment Foundation to make this exciting opportunity available to the community,” said Ayana McIntosh-Lee, General Manager of External Affairs for BP.
The Sea Sand and Stars complex sees more than 4,000 visitors per year, but has been open only to school groups thus far. “The admission policies have shut out most members of the general public from experiencing the awesome exhibits and technology,” CBEE Chairman Yolanda Devine Johnson said. “This fantastic facility has been a hit with schoolchildren from across the region, and now through BP’s generous donation, administered by CBEE, the general public will now have a chance to experience what their children and grandchildren have experienced for the past five years.”
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity,” SSS Director Lisa Allen said. “We’re really excited. We’ve wanted to do this from the beginning, but just needed permission and funding.”
The permission came with the funding, according to Allen. BP has granted the facility $25,000 to open it to the public July 16 through 20 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. According to Allen, admission is free, but children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Orange Beach Elementary School Principal Jonathan Ellis said he is grateful to BP and CBEE for allowing the complex to open its doors to the general public. “This is one of the finest educational facilities anywhere,” he said. “I would personally like to thank BP and CBEE for making this possible.”
The facility features a beautiful 5,800 gallon saltwater aquarium with a large variety of local fish, including redfish, speckled trout and cobia. It also features “touch tanks” in which visitors can touch and/or hold certain marine animals such as flounder and hermit crabs.
Additionally, the facility has a 38-seat planetarium with projector that employs technology used in the best planetariums across the world. The facility is equipped to tap into the Hubble Space Telescope and allows visitors a real-time look through this amazing window into space.
Sea, Sand and Stars features a computer technology room, complete with 30 computer work stations. Outside, an 800 ft. boardwalk leads to four large outdoor gazebo classrooms where students learn about birds, plants, amphibians and insects. In partnership with WKRG television, a weather station, complete with measuring and monitoring technology, allows students to learn meteorology and then report the weather on a real television news set.
According to Allen, the grant has allowed SSS staff to line up a series of special lecturers during the week. “We’ll have speakers on a variety of topics, including fishing, boating safety, dolphins, birds and we can’t forget about the sea turtles,” she said. “The grant has also allowed us to show some special IMAX movies in the planetarium – one entitled Enchanted Reef and another one called Sea Monsters.”
While this is the first time the general public will be able to experience Sea, Sand and Stars facility, Allen said she is working to do more. “We’re hoping this will be a recurring event each summer,” Allen said. To find out more about Sea, Sand and Stars and the complete schedule for Gulf Coast Adventure week call 251-981-5690 or go to www.orangebeachelementary.com and click on Sea, Sand and Stars.
The CBEE Foundation has awarded scholarships to graduating seniors from Gulf Shores High School and grants to teachers in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores public schools since 1999. Anyone who is interested in making a difference in our schools is welcome to become a part of CBEE. For more information on the foundation, see its website at www.cbee.la, or contact Johnson at email@example.com, or 205-613-0001.