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Great Lakes Aquarium discovery center now open

A new discovery center is open for business at the Great Lakes Aquarium. Community members, aquarium employees and sponsors of the center met Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new space and officially introduce it to the public....

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Elijah Strathman flips through a copy of “The Mixed-Up Chameleon,” held by his mother Heather Strathman, in the Great Lakes Aquarium’s Discovery Center on Wednesday. The Strathmans were among the people touring the center after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

A new discovery center is open for business at the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Community members, aquarium employees and sponsors of the center met Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the new space and officially introduce it to the public.

The center includes three classrooms and a teacher resource center. Jack LaVoy, the aquarium's executive director, said the space will help improve the education programs available.

"With the opening of this space it's gonna double the space available in our building for freshwater education," LaVoy said.

The discovery center has been in the works for five years, since the space now housing it opened up. The $425,000 project will be used for the aquarium's day camps and classes, as well as for a meeting room.

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Sarah Erickson, the aquarium's director of education, said the discovery center will better meet the needs of visitors.

"We really see this space as having all the tools we need to take this program to the next level," Erickson said.

Heather and Matt Strathman visited the discovery center with their 2-year-old son Elijah directly after the ribbon cutting. Heather Strathman said she enjoys the new facility.

"So far I like all the little kid stuff," she said. "There's not as much for little toddlers like him and so it's just nice to see some more little stations for him to come in and explore, learn new things."

Now that the discovery center is open, the aquarium plans to move on to new projects. Space overlooking the harbor is now freed up and will feature an exhibit called "The Amazing World of the Unsalted Seas."

LaVoy said he thinks the new facility will be a hit with visitors.

"This space is going to be very busy, starting probably tomorrow," he said.

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