The Seattle Aquarium’s Connections program, which provides complimentary admission tickets through a network of over 300 community partner organizations, was launched through the Aquarium’s work to be inclusive and welcoming to all—and belief that our audience should reflect the diversity of our region.
The program’s goal is to provide opportunities to experience the Aquarium to those in our community who might otherwise experience barriers to engaging with us. Through these opportunities, we aim to create authentic, mutually beneficial relationships that build trust among the Aquarium and our partner communities, and provide quality, culturally relevant marine conservation educational experiences to all.
One of our many partnerships is with Seattle’s Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA), a nonprofit, multi-ethnic organization that provides refugee and immigrant women and their families with culturally and linguistically appropriate services while promoting inclusion, independence, personal leadership and strong communities.
As it turns out, the partnership not only furthers the Aquarium’s mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment—it furthers ReWA’s mission as well. “The nature of the partnership is really unique,” says ReWA Director of Early Childhood Education Operations and Volunteer Service Susan Lee. “The Aquarium really gets our mission and what we’re trying to do.”
For example, Susan found that parents served by ReWA were often hesitant to accompany their children on field trips, due to language barriers, cultural boundaries and other factors. Additionally, income limitations made it challenging for the families to visit cultural institutions like the Aquarium on their own. So ReWA and the Aquarium worked together to develop opportunities for parents and preschool-aged children to experience the Aquarium together.
The first such opportunity was in 2014, at the Aquarium’s Open House—an annual event which welcomes families who work with our Connections partners for an evening of exploring the Aquarium, listening to bilingual talks, and participating in special activities. After learning through post-event feedback that transportation was the single largest obstacle in getting families to participate, the Aquarium was able to provide transportation to and from the event in subsequent years. “That transportation assistance was invaluable,” says Susan. “For the underserved, just getting to the Aquarium is a challenge.”
Through events like Open House and other opportunities, parents can learn alongside their children—and also develop the confidence to chaperone field trips as their kids progress through school.
In another example, our beach naturalist program partnered with ReWA last summer for a field trip to a local shoreline, with educational, pre-trip classes for youth as well. “It was incredible,” says ReWA Youth Program Manager Emily Tomita. "A hands-on, tactile experience, and brand new to the kids—for some, this was only their first or second visit to the beach." Adds Susan Lee, “The Aquarium has been instrumental in opening many doors, opportunities and aspirations for the families at ReWA, providing a sense of community and lasting memories of a fun learning experience.”
Seattle Aquarium members and donors, thank you for the support that makes the Connections program—and our partnership with ReWA—possible!