If you think back to being a kid, you can probably hear the exact pitch, intonation and cadence that accompanied the words "Don't Touch."
Environmental Education at the Ucluelet Aquarium
Kids - at least my kids - want to touch. It's how they learn.
That shiver that ran up their spine when the big fish rubbed against their hand swimming by, it inspired a world of questions and creativity. Why do fish scales feel like that? And what do the shrimp the fish are eating feel like? And why do some fish eat this and other's eat that?
We were visiting the newly renovated Ucluelet Aquarium, a magical place where kids of all ages are encouraged to respectfully explore marine creatures and habitats with all five of their senses. Needless to say, imagination soars.
Giant seastars. Tiny seastars. Clams that flutter and crabs that camouflage. We held our breath when a dungeness crab was placed in the tank with the octopus - but to our somewhat morbid disappointment, she wasn't interested in dinner. Still, the very idea of the octopus chowing down opened the door to a deeper understanding about the food chain in a very real way. She's going to eat THAT!!!
Green Philosophy at the Ucluelet Aquarium
It's all part of a philosophy that celebrates and educates about the local environmental as organically as possible, with the greatest benefit to local habitat. All of the specimens in the aquarium are visiting temporarily from local waters and the water in the tanks circulates through a series of tide pools back into the ocean. The seven-year-old among us was as fascinated by the tank up set up as he was by the contents of the tank. And all of us delighted in the arrival of new specimens.
With more touch tanks than don't-touch tanks, an incredibly sustainable building design and awe-inspiring exhibits - like whale bones from the local beaches - all beautifully connected to harbor, the Ucluelet Aquarium is an afternoon that the kids and I won't soon forget. So much so that the Aquarium, and the Pacific Rim beaches as a whole, are included in our top seven thrifty and green beach vacations, listed in the August 2012 T&G Digital Edition.