The final day of the Marine Science Academy is what we generally call “Aquarium Day.” We load up on 2 buses and take the entire 55 student group to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. The day is broken up into 4 parts. Students participate in a squid dissection, a remote operated vehicle activity, and a behind the scenes tour of the aquarium. Afterward we gather all the students, parents, school board members, sponsors and other involved into the theater at the Aquarium for a short wrap up presentation of pictures from throughout the week.
After the previous day’s experience with the turtle, I wondered how this would go. We started off with a discussion of classification. Students had a small collection of shells on their table and had to organize them into piles based on characteristics of their choosing. The instructor then went through a discussion of the classification of mollusks including our friend the squid. Afterward, we gave the kids a squid to be shared between partners. We discussed external anatomy and then the kids got cutting. Many had done squid dissections before and new right away what was what. We continued and found the beak and removed the lenses of the eyes. From there we had a discussion of some of the escape artist tricks of aquarium octopi.
The aquarium staff has prepared a presentation on a number of things related to underwater ocean exploration. They go through some of the history of underwater diving and lead up to a number of underwater research craft including remotely operated vehicles. Video footage of some of the discoveries made by ROVs was include in the presentation. There were also activities to help the students understand density and buoyancy which were a wonderful tie in to our activities from Monday. For the last few minutes of the session students got the opportunity to head out to the dock and drive two small ROVs in the waters of Core Sound.
Behind the Scenes Tour
Our final activity during the day and the camp was the behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium. Our group took the tour backwards as they would be preparing for a live dive during the time we should have reached the shark tank. So we began our tour on top of the 306,000 gallon shark exhibit. It was somewhat unnerving to know you were standing above that much water with sharks who knew they were waiting for supper!
From there we continued behind the scenes where we got a look at the food preparation area, some of the animals used for live animal education (alligators, sea turtles, and land turtles), and the filtration systems for the aquarium. Students really enjoyed the opportunity to see the jellyfish and sea turtles that are kept out of public view. All in all, this is one of my favorite experiences of the camp.
To end the camp, we all assemble in the theater at the Aquarium with families and friends of the Academy for a short presentation of pictures from the week.
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