For the last two summers, Brian Cottani, who just entered his senior year at Rye High School, has volunteered as an exhibit guide at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.
By Robin Jovanovich
For the last two summers, Brian Cottani, who just entered his senior year at Rye High School, has volunteered as an exhibit guide at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. To be a guide at the Aquarium, you have to know your stuff, and Brian is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to sea life, and a true lover of sea creatures. “They light up the imagination.”
He knew another group who probably felt the same way — the campers at Carver Center. Brian’s older sister, Carri, volunteered at Carver, so he wondered: What if the Aquarium’s “Traveling Teachers” program could travel to Port Chester?
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First, he had to write a grant and get funding. “The Hispanic Heritage Network helped write the grant; half of the funding came from McGraw-Hill Financial (where my dad works),” he said.
For five Wednesdays this summer, 120 Carver campers learned about sharks, water pollution, amphibians, sea turtles, and crustaceans. “We brought touch tanks, starfish, hermit crabs, live baby turtles, and mounted sharks,” said Brian.
“I love sharks, especially tiger sharks. Sharks are the biggest predators and they get everyone excited. I was amazed to discover that 5- and 6-year-olds watch ‘Shark Week,’ and many of the 10- and 11-year-olds had seen ‘Jaws’ more than once!”
The campers were sad when the program ended. The program was so successful that they’re thinking of continuing it through the school year at Thomas A. Edison Elementary in Port Chester.
For Brian, it was one of those teachable moments, too. He treasures the cards the children made. “The whole experience influenced my thinking.