Five arms, five eyes and thousands of tiny tube feet with a mouth on bottom. You can experience these fascinating creatures at the Touch Tank - come learn more!
“Well hello! Who is this?”
“Well Nemo, all new explorers must answer a science question.”
“You live in what kind of home?”
“In an…. An-nem-men-nem-mon-ee…A men-nem-men-nem-o-nee…”
“Okay, okay. Don’t hurt yourself. Welcome aboard, explorer!”
(Nemo and Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo)
Here’s hoping for a sequel!
Celebrate the holidays with an adorable plush toy, educational activity, book and more from the Maritime Aquarium shop. Great ideas for children and adults of all ages.
Did you know that triggerfish can rotate each eye independently?
We had to remove the carnivores from the Long Island Sound Fall Season display due to aggressive behavior. With strong jaws triggerfish can prey on just about anything including crabs and sea urchins. Commonly thought of as exclusively tropical, triggerfish are showing up in force in Long Island fishing reports from July through October this year. The largest triggerfish caught in Connecticut was a 4 lb 7 oz Gray Triggerfish in Niantic Bay according to the state DEEP.
Meerkats are team players! Hailing from the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa, meerkats build grass-lined burrows with connecting dens that they fiercely defend from other meerkat gangs yet sometimes share with yellow mongooses and ground squirrels. Up to ten feet deep, meerkat dens include a shared latrine.
How to Inspire Future Scientists
Scientific literacy is more important than ever. How else can we choose a computer and wireless network or make decisions about medical care without an understanding of science? With US students ranking 23rd of 65 industrial countries in science, many are wondering how we will compete economically in the coming years. Science education is getting a closer look.
Does hands-on science education support student success? Opinions and data vary in the test-obsessed environment we live in. Research and development organization RAND Corporation found positive achievement results among middle and early high school students when evaluating hands-on science and test scores. A Smithsonian Institution report adds that hands-on science, the inquiry method, is the best way to teach scientific literacy and appreciation needed for students to become “scientifically knowledgeable adults”, an important skill for the job market and for personal decision making.
Maritime Aquarium Director of Education, Jamie Alonzo, answered questions about science education. A science enthusiast with degrees in zoology, marine, estuarine and environmental science, and an educator with extensive experience developing an after-school teen program at the Yale Peabody Museum, Jamie Alonzo leads a team of educators at the Maritime Aquarium, educating 140,000 students each year through a variety of programs.
In your experience at the Yale Peabody Museum and now The Maritime Aquarium, how do you see hands-on science experiences impacting elementary, middle and high school students?
“Imagine if baseball were taught the way science is taught in most inner-city schools. School children would get lectures about the history of the World Series. High school students would occasionally reproduce famous plays of the past. Nobody would get in the game themselves until graduate school. UC Berkeley Professor Alison Gopnik writes, ”Research shows that a significant number of kids are making decisions about whether to pursue a STEM career (science, technology, engineering, math) by the time they are in middle school and that these preferences persist.” That said, when you ask kids “Do you like science”, the proportion of kids that answer “Yes” drops precipitously between elementary and high school for the very reason the quote above identifies. I think this is where informal institutions like museums, zoos, science centers and aquariums come in.”
How do you see the Maritime Aquarium complementing science education in schools and promoting the development of future scientists? “
Though our mission revolves around educating students and the public around issues related to conservation, stewardship and marine environments, at a foundational level, I think one of our most important jobs is to help students maintain an engagement with science. It’s one thing to learn about what taxonomic family a crab belongs to from a book in the classroom. It’s another to go out on our boat, deploy a net, bring it in by hand, and sort through the catch, categorizing and learning about crabs and other animals using characteristics you can see and touch on a live, squiggling, wet, muddy, beautifully interesting animal. It’s relevant because it’s in their backyard, they learn that we’re all part of the same delicate ecosystem (particularly when we bring up trash in our nets - an all too common occurrence), and we teach them what it means to be a steward. These types of experiences can be absolutely formative for students and can be just what it takes to inspire the next Jacques Cousteau down the marine scientist path. That’s what happened to me! ”
Keeping kids interested, wanting to come back, can be a challenge. How does the Maritime Aquarium deliver educational programs that are fun?
I think it starts with a passionate and engaging staff, people who are able to relay their love for science and the Long Island Sound to students. Of course we also have a great collection of really great education programs that have been tested and refined over many years, so we know what kids like. That said, imagine you come for a field trip where you spend the day catching crabs, fish and sharks on our boat, see a film (educational, of course) in our 6-story IMAX theater, dissect a squid and touch a shark. Fun? I’m not sure there can be any doubt.
What are your plans to deliver more hands on experiences to children and teens in our area?
”It’s an exciting time in the world of science education. In large part due to the new Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards slated to be adopted by Connecticut schools. As envisioned, these new academic standards will represent a complete revision in how science is taught, shifting the focus away from content to critical thinking. As such, and given that we are keenly focused on supporting what goes on in schools, we will be working to revise our activities to support student and teacher learning. Specifically, the new science standards will incorporate a focus on engineering and technology, which will open the door to a lot of great marine-related hands-on projects (e.g. building remotely operated underwater vehicles!). We are also in the process of intensely training our education staff on the inquiry approach to teaching, something we hope to share with local teachers through professional development opportunities. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that we are starting a new after school program this fall for local 9th and 10th graders called The Dead Reckoners After School Program whose goals revolve around science literacy, 21st century skills development and college preparation. Whew, guess I’d better get to work! ”
One Impressive Snake
Acrantophis Madagascariensis, or Madagascar Ground Boa, is one of the world’s big snakes reaching 10 feet in length. Hailing from the northeastern woodlands of Madagascar, the Madagascar Ground Boa is endangered due to deforestation by a developing population, farming and industrial interests. The Maritime Aquarium is lucky to have one as part of the Africa: From the Desert to the Sea exhibit.
Like pythons, boas suffocate their prey by wrapping their bodies around small to medium sized animals, constricting airflow without crushing their bones. Boas flick their tongue to “smell” scent particles and use special scales around their mouths to feel heat. These sensors work as well in both day and night to target rodents, birds, pigs, deer and other animals. The largest boa, an anaconda, can reach 30 feet and 280 pounds.
From the feared yet friendly Kaa in The Jungle Book to the myriad of frightening species in Snakes on a Plane and Raiders of the Ark, snakes maintain a scary reputation. Perhaps because of their awesome size, we forget that boas are not venomous. These calm creatures certainly deserve our respect and protection.