Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will be able to expand its field trip curriculum and create a new high school mentoring program.

“This funding is integral to the organization,” said Vicki Wawerchak, director of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. “Creating grade-specific curriculum for pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade allows teachers to bring their students to the aquarium each year, where they will learn new concepts built on previous years’ visits and receive a solid foundation of environmental education.”

The award, part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’s “Museums for America” grant program, will also provide for the development of a high school mentoring program, allowing high school students to partner with the aquarium to fulfill service learning requirements.

“This gives us the opportunity to delve into meeting the needs of the region’s high schools as well,” Wawerchak said.

The two-year grant received by the aquarium is one of 177 awarded last month by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The aquarium’s proposal was one of 448 applications reviewed by the Institute, which awarded $16,955,577 in grant funds.

“Museums for America will help strengthen museum service in communities across the United States,” said Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, director of the institute. “These awards will support hundreds of hands-on educational programs, the digitalization of thousands of objects in museum collections and exciting ventures using new technology. Museums will use these funds to advance community partnerships, spur cultural tourism and support classroom teachers with educational curriculum, training and much more.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a “Nation of Learners” because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build 21st Century skills and increase civic participation.

Information about the institute, www.imls.gov

IN OTHER NEWS — The Pier Aquarium will be closed to the general public from Tuesday, September 5th, until Tuesday, October 31st, during a roof reconstruction project.

During this time, the aquarium will not be offering field trip education programs or birthday parties.

Aquarium staff began seriously documenting its leaky roof problems two winters ago, when the second-soggiest winter on record forced staff to sandbag around the doors, strategically position buckets over tanks and computers and constantly run dehumidifiers and fans to dry out soggy carpets.

This spring, leadership at the Pier Restoration Corporation and the city of Santa Monica’s Resource Management Department recommended that Santa Monica City Council approve a $240,000 expenditure to replace the roof above the aquarium. The City Council approved the proposal in June and architectural plans were developed, along with a request for bids, with the goal to begin the project Friday, September 1st.

Heal the Bay will contribute funds toward the roofing project, using a portion of a $650,000 State Coastal Conservancy grant awarded in April for the aquarium’s renovation. The funds will be used over a three-year period to improve the aquarium’s marine life support system, conduct a feasibility study and plan for a possible building renovation, as well as to plan for new aquarium exhibits and improve signage and aquarium presence on top of the pier.

“We are so excited to begin this much needed renovation for the aquarium and look forward to a great reopening in November,” said Vicki Wawerchak, aquarium director.

Information, (310) 393-6149 or www.healthebay.org/smpa