Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TN Aquarium Keeper Kids: What a blast!

Yesterday my kids and I were treated to a visit at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. It was our first trip there and I must say I was impressed. The aquarium consists of two buildings: one focused on river life and one on the ocean. In both, you start at the top and wind your way down.

Though there's tons to see every day, we went during spring break for the special Keeper Kids experiences. You can sign up for two of 19 different behind-the-scenes, hands-on interactions with certain animals, that are offered on a first come, first serve basis. Since a limited number of children are allowed with each experience, you're never crowded and the kids have time to ask questions.

Our first Keeper Kids experience was Otter Edibles and Trout Chow. The otters are so cute at feeding time--like meerkats of the water. The fish were not slimy and were easy for the kids to throw. The trout chow were pellets that made the whole tank swarm in seconds.

Our second Keeper Kids experience was Really Awesome Reptiles. Since Bobby and Devin ADORE lizards, this was perfect. They learned that even though the box turtle is the TN state reptile, it too has seen its numbers dwindle over the past decade. We found one in our backyard once and started to care for it. She recommended leaving them in the wild, as taking them out of their habitat even temporarily is very confusing and possibly detrimental for box turtles. When a lizard native to the desert came out, Bobby recognized it immediately. It was fun for me seeing him spout his wealth of knowledge of these creatures. They got to touch both animals--quickly followed by hand sanitizer; thank you!

Our last encounter wasn't a scheduled experience but they brought out a few shrimp for the boys to feed the sting rays. When a ray came up to the glass to get his treat, he startled Bobby and me. I didn't expect the rays to climb the wall of the tank! The exhibit was set up well so that all the kids had plenty of opportunities to stroke a sting ray as it swam by. Even my two-year-old Brooke got into the action.

The aquarium certainly has the WOW factor year-round, but getting to touch and feed the animals will be experiences they'll never forget. By interacting with them, hopefully they will value efforts to protect animals and their dwindling habitats all over the world.

Don't forget to check out my video at the bottom of this post. If you can't make it to the TN Aquarium during spring break, they will continue the Keeper Kids experiences through April 17. There's a list of programs by times here. Thanks for your feedback on the video and for sharing which Keeper Kids experience would interest your kids most.

Here's more info:
Dates available: March 12-April 17, 2011
Hours: 10:30 am-4:30 pm (Aquarium hours 10 am-6 pm)
Price: Keeper Kids activities are FREE with Aquarium admission
Reservations: Call 800-262-0695, Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm

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