Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fishing for Knowledge at the Aquarium

The Perkins School now has a partnership with the New England Aquarium. And, Ms. Harden's fourth grade class is learning about animal adaptations--aquatic animals, that is. Jessica, an Aquarium educator, has already visited the Perkins, bringing some animals into the classroom.

Last week, it was the fourth grade's turn to visit her--along with everything else at the Aquarium from 80-year-old, 500-pound Myrtle the Turtle to the most beautiful seastars.

Before the kids went in, they got some ground rules: Don't drop anything in the water; after all, gum can get stuck on a seal's coat. And, don't tap the glass. It scares the fish!

Then Mrs. Harden added, "Make sure you look a as well. In fact, each of you will have to come back and report on two things that you never knew before."

Just two!?! The kids set off in small groups with teachers and chaperones and learned something new just about every minute! Ms. Harden's group went to see the seals first, reading signs about each one and then picking them out in the pool. Cordova makes yelling sounds.

Isaac can't see so well. Nevertheless, he manages to see a trainer's signal and do the trick that gets him a fish!

Another group stared for a long time at the leafy seadragon exhibit. It takes a while to realize that the seaweed is actually a seahorse.

"What is that animal's adaptation?" the chaperone asks. "Camouflage!" the kids answer.

The seadragon was something new, but not the idea of camouflage. Since the kids had been studying adaptations, they know that all living things have special things about them that help them fit into their worlds.

They learned even more about the subject when they visited the Boulder Reef Exhibit. There, Jessica asked them to act like scientists as they looked at the tank of creatures. Then they filled out a paper with their thoughts about how the bodies and actions of these animals helped them live on the reef.

Some of our kids learned that cownose rays and little bonnethead sharks liked to be petted. That's probably not an adaptation, but it is a fun activity for fish and kids alike.

"I was surprised," said one girl, describing her reaction to touching the ray. "It feels so soft--and a little greasy."

Azaryah wasn't as interested in touching the fish. She had a favorite spot, scrunching down to watch them eye-to-eye. "It's more fun," she explained. I can see them better and actually watch what they are up to down there."

Good for her, that's just what scientists do.