Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is partnering with The Haven, a local nonprofit offering programs and services for children and adults with disabilities. The partnership uses informal science education to create interactive, engaging, and accessible lessons for students and young adults with disabilities. This funding enhances Mote’s existing partnership with The Haven and provides the opportunity for expanded programming.

35 participants engage directly with Mote’s educators and educational content monthly during programs, experiencing specialized marine STEM lessons to inspire interest in STEM, awareness for the environment and inclusive access to marine science and learning for all abilities. Each lesson connects to a current Mote research topic, such as red tide mitigation, coral restoration, or animal conservation. STEM challenges focus on the engineering process while simulated research activities represent a modified version of actual Mote research. The activities are adaptable, but generally group-based to encourage participants to work together. The program takes place at The Haven.

In Sarasota County alone, there are over 7,000 students with disabilities. Over the past five years, Mote has served over 4,000 individuals with disabilities and has made it a priority to work collaboratively to develop programs that serve children and adults with disabilities in the community. “We want our students always to be excited about school and learning, and we feel partnering with Mote is an important step in supporting this goal,” said Allison Thomas, Chief Operating Officer at The Haven.

Mote is committed to providing accessible and equitable educational opportunities to all members of our community. Informal science education is supported by professional organizations such as the National Science Teachers Association which asserts that this type of education can “deepen and enhance” classroom study. The goal: to launch interactive, engaging experiences that improve science understanding and affective factors related to STEM with groups comprised of varying cognitive and physical ability levels. “It’s really important for us to provide informal science education because we see the students get so excited at the chance to be hands-on,” said Aly Busse, Associate Vice President for Education at Mote, “and it feeds into our mission of improving access to marine science and technology for everyone.”

About Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, based in Sarasota, Florida, has conducted marine research since its founding as a small, one-room laboratory in 1955. Since then, Mote has grown to encompass more than 20 research and conservation programs that span the spectrum of marine science: sustainable aquaculture systems designed to alleviate growing pressures on wild fish populations; red tide research that works to inform the public and mitigate the adverse effects of red tide with innovative technologies; marine animal science, conservation and rehabilitation programs dedicated to the protection of animals such as sea turtles, manatees and dolphins; and much more. Mote Aquarium, accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is open 365 days per year. Learn more at or connect with @motemarinelab on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $520 million in more than 1,570 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $27.5 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $350 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit or call (941) 955-3000.