Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Mystic Aquarium

On Thursday, I took the children on a road trip to Mystic, Connecticut and the famous Mystic Aquarium.

The Aquarium did not disappoint!

It was a freezing cold day, but we lingered by the Beluga tank for quite a while and interacted with the friendliest beluga whale I've ever met.

Then we went inside to see the seahorses, jelly fish, sharks and other fish / crustaceans.

They even had a beautiful (sleepy) chameleon to observe:

The Mystic Aquarium is fairly small, but there is a lot to see.  Although it was school vacation week in Massachusetts, it obviously wasn't school vacation week in Connecticut - we shared the aquarium with many school field-trip groups and their chaperones.

I'm not saying it was crowded - there was plenty of room for us all.

Especially at the star-attraction - the Sting Ray Touching Tank:

Petting sting rays was definitely a high-light of the journey - for the kids, I mean.  It was 30 degrees outside and only slightly warmer in that outside tent and I had no interest in sticking my arm into cold water.

My personal high-light came after the sting ray tank.  Once everyone had dried off and disinfected, we moved into the next building and found ourselves in the Titanic Exhibit.

The exhibit is designed to feel as if you have entered the submarine that explored the sunken Titanic.  It's a dark room with mechanical instruments and faux escape hatches hanging on the walls.  Inside, there were these amazing computer activity tables where one could play games, explore the floor-plan of the ship, watch footage of the debris field and of the lead explorer explaining what his team found.

These computer tables were amazing - even if it took me more than a few minutes to figure them out.  

The children also thought the compute tables were amazing and fun - and it should be noted that the children had the entire system figured out in about 2 seconds.  Sigh.

The Exhibit also included an eerie floating floor plan that allowed the children to see how survival rates depended on where you were on the ship when it hit the iceberg.  I took a photo of Henry and Georgia exploring this feature, but sadly, my flash made the floor plan disappear!

I absolutely love a museum exhibit that engages children in such a positive way.  The computer tables at the beginning caught Henry, Georgia & Josie's interest and provided a great summary of the story.  The rest of the exhibit - the wall hangings, the artifacts, the floating ship plan -  gave the children a real sense of the scope of the tragedy.  The museum designers did a fabulous job of explaining how class and gender affected each person's chance of survival.  We were all amazed to read that there was an officer on either side of the ship, helping people into lifeboats.  One officer took the captain's "women and children first" proclamation literally and refused to allow any men onto the lifeboats.  He released half-filled boats into the water.  On the opposite side of the boat, the officer put available women and children in the lifeboats and then filled remaining seats with men.  The lack of a coherent emergency plan created a disaster.  

And, it should be noted, that the fact that all four of us read that wall-hanging and then discussed the implications of these two different actions, is fairly impressive in it's own right.  Not all museum literature is written in a way that is fascinating for people of all age groups.  Whomever was responsible for the exhibit text, deserves an award (and a raise).  I love a good educational moment.

After we finished with the Titanic Exhibit, we went back outside to say hello to the penguins and the sea lions.

It was so incredibly cold.

We basically raced by each tank and did a quick wave.



After the aquarium, I brought the kids to Bravo Bravo in Mystic for lunch.  

And afterward, we walked along the main shopping street and enjoyed the sunshine and sea air.

There's nothing like a good road-trip.

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