Thursday, June 25, 2009

Aquarium of the Pacific


We've been sampling nature classes at various institutions. Our new favorite: Aqua Tots at the Aquarium of the Pacific. These themed classes are for toddlers (and parents), but the Aquarium also offers classes for all ages (including summer camp)--and the entire family. Upcoming Saturday Family Fun programs include "Totally Turtles," "Shark Sleuths," and "Magnificent Marine Mammals."

On our recent visit, we learned about the brilliant colors in the ocean. The kids helped our teacher--an engaging  young woman named Staci--identify the colors and names of various plush-toy sea animals. Then we fluttered around the Aquarium in search of brightly colored animals. 

Parents, check out this photo:

Yes, fish at the Aquarium eat broccoli! (The green stuff at the top right of the photo.) I made sure to point that out to my son. In fact, I may print this photo for him; perhaps glue it to his highchair. 

Kids and parents oohed and aahed over this olive ridley sea turtle. All species of sea turtles that swim in U.S. waters are endangered. In the eastern Pacific, olive ridleys have declined because of commercial harvesting by Mexican fishermen, loss of nesting habitat to coastal development, and accidental entrapment in fishing gear.  

When we returned to our classroom, we read a book about how some marine animals use camouflage. Then we dipped our fingers into a touch pool of local species. My son fingered sea stars, purple urchins, anemones, a limpet, and a swell shark. The swell shark takes its name from its talent for gulping air or water when threatened. This not only increases its size, but helps it wedge into cracks in rocky reefs. 

Finally, we make glued colored animal shapes into a book to take home.

Kudos to the Aquarium of the Pacific for offering conservation-oriented educational exhibits. Take a moment to learn from some of the videos and exhibits that tell how you can help protect marine life. In coastal Southern California, our behavior affects the ocean--even if we live 30 miles inland.

After leaving the Aquarium, we enjoyed cruising along Rainbow Harbor, peeking at the boats. We drove home after dinner; no traffic at 7 p.m. Next time, we hope to hop on a harbor cruise.

More from me on the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Explore the Aquarium's Online Learning Center.

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