CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Aquarium broke ground Tuesday on a renovation of the Charleston Maritime Center which will be transformed into the Boeing Learning Lab.

The waterfront education center will provide additional space to allow for educational programming and increase the number of students that can be served by the SC Aquarium each year.

Mere steps from the South Carolina Aquarium’s main building along the waterfront, the Learning Lab included 8,500 square feet of education space with four indoor classrooms, one open-air classroom, a broadcast studio for virtual programs, and office space for Aquarium staff.

“When complete, the Boeing Learning Lab at the Charleston Maritime Center will be a beacon for inclusivity and engagement along our waterfront, serving schoolchildren with standards-based science curriculum and providing access to the waterfront for all,” said Kevin Mills, president and CEO of the South Carolina Aquarium. “And that experiential learning has already begun. This morning, we had a guest appearance from a bottlenose dolphin who had recently caught a fish, just beyond the dock outside the Boeing Learning Lab doors. Our high school interns quickly gathered in awe to witness this unforgettable encounter, where our educators took advantage of this opportunity to interpret the dolphin’s behavior for them.”

Rendering of new SC Aquarium Learning Lab at the Charleston Maritime Center | Courtesy SC Aquarium

Mills said that is the epitome of the learning lab. “Unlocking the waterfront and all the wonder that lies within, filling the minds of curious kids with knowledge and igniting a lifelong passion to care for our natural world,” he said.

Charleston City Council in 2021 agreed to a Memorandum of Agreement with the South Carolina Aquarium, enabling them to invest up to $5 million in the city facility with a long-term lease to create the educational space.

Aquarium leaders later announced in 2022 that it had received a $2 million donation from Boeing for the project.

They plan to teach about 20,000 students a year in the revitalized space. The Boeing Learning Lab is slated to open in the fall of 2024.