Geanne Griffith: You’ve Got a Friend at the Aquarium

Geanne Griffith: You’ve Got a Friend at the Aquarium

Geanne Griffith, longtime aquarium volunteer
Geanne Griffith, longtime aquarium volunteer

by Cindy Sabato, director of communications

When Geanne Griffith, her husband, and their two cats moved to Rhode Island three years ago, Geanne didn’t wait long to jump right into the water—the water at our Exploration Center and Aquarium, that is.

Geanne has been a volunteer docent at the aquarium for nearly the whole three years she’s been in the Ocean State—a perfect fit since she worked in her children’s elementary school for years, first as a substitute teacher, then as a special education teaching assistant, and finally helping in third-grade science classes. “We did many units that remind me of going to the Exploration Center every day,” she said.

At the aquarium, Geanne wears many hats—helping guests at the touch tanks, leading children on scavenger hunts, preparing craft activities, making sure guests see every animal, and always stepping in when the center is short-staffed. “She’s amazing. She has a wonderful connection with our guests, always has a warm smile, and has an extensive knowledge about our animals,” said Outreach Coordinator Celina Segala.

In fact, Geanne says, “One of the best things about volunteering there is how much I’ve learned, certainly about the animals, but about environmental issues surrounding the Bay also. I get asked a lot of questions, and now I have answers to most of them, although I still get asked a new one now and then.”

Her favorite part of the gig? “I love working with the kids who come in and enjoy seeing them get excited about things they are seeing and learning about. And I love having a child who is really hesitant to touch the animals at first. We take it slow, maybe starting with just holding an empty shell. Nine times out of 10, we work our way up to them being fully involved. Kids are curious and you just have to tap into that,” Geanne said.

The Griffiths moved here from Connecticut, where they lived and raised their family for 18 years, after their youngest child headed off to college at Roger Williams University. They’ve always loved being around the water, vacationing on the Jersey Shore every summer and visiting Newport frequently. So, when it came time to make a move, the Griffiths’ decision to move here was an easy one.

Geanne’s interest in protecting the environment came early, first as a child with a father who loved hunting and fishing and instilled in her a respect for rivers and forests and the animals that live there. Then, those summers on the Jersey Shore “was during a time when there were a lot of problems with waste in the water and coming up onto shore. Sometimes we weren’t allowed in the water because of the waste, which wasn’t fun with two young children,” Geanne said. “I have always realized it is important to take care of our natural resources so we can continue to enjoy them.”

*Please note:  Be sure to access the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus through the main entrance on Harborside Blvd. Your GPS may suggest taking Ernest Street to JWU’s Shipyard Street entrance, but that route requires a key card for entry.  

From Route I-95 North or South, take Exit 18 (Thurbers Avenue). Head downhill on Thurbers Avenue to US Route 1A (Allens Avenue). Turn right onto Allens Ave. Continue southbound on Allens Ave. into Cranston, where Allens Ave. becomes Narragansett Blvd. Turn left onto Harborside Blvd. at the traffic light by the Shell gas station. Follow Harborside Blvd. through the Johnson & Wales Harborside Campus. At the end of Harborside Blvd., turn right onto Save The Bay Drive. Save The Bay Drive becomes a circular, one-way roadway as you approach the Bay Center. Parking is available in four guest lots after you pass the main building. Enter the building through the main entrance.

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