Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday @ Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Kelp Forest Exhibit. It's impressive - kind of like diving except you wear jeans and can still push around a stroller.

Both Mom and I took yesterday off to spend a little time with the kids. We've been meaning to go back to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for more than a year and we figured it would be wise to go before schools let out for the summer. Besides, the kids new favorite CD is Linda Arnold's Splash Zone, an album celebrating the ocean creatures housed at the aquarium.

Ronan's new SCUBA diving biologist buddy. I need to see if there is a minimum age to get NAUI certified. And yes, that acrylic is thick - seven inches thick.

It was fun to watch what captivated the kids - for Ronan it was the SCUBA divers in the enormous kelp forest tank that were cleaning the rocks and feeding the fish. One diver had a mask that allowed him to talk via a wireless microphone to a docent that was fielding questions from visitors that had gathered into a sizable audience. Tuesday was field-trip day for one lucky local school - we were surrounded by 60 1st graders all equally enthralled by the diver talking to them. They would ask fun questions like, "what's your favorite sea animal?" or, "have you ever been bitten?". Ronan, of course had a question of his own, and he insisted on asking it - he was fortunate the docent called on him. Ronan's question was, "are there any machines in there with you?" The startled diver responded, "Well, yes, there are - they pump water into and out of the tank. We have to turn them off, though, when we get into the tank for safety reasons." There were machines in the tank - Ronan was satisfied.

Sometimes I call Nieve my little dragon... it's fitting that she was enthralled by these leafy sea dragons

At the Kelp Forest exhibit Nieve just loved the fish - in fact she was crazy for them. Her favorite, hands-down, were the leopard sharks that would glide effortlessly by. And leopard sharks are remarkably beautiful - she already has an eye for style. In another exhibit the giant octopuses grabbed her attention as well as some colorful, playful prawns. She found both the anchovy and sardine exhibits fun - she most likely was in awe of the hundres of little flashing sliver bodies moving quickly in unison. The seahorse exhibit is always a hit - Nieve spent the most time cooing at the leafy sea dragons that would gracefully drift by in front of her.

This is motherhood. Clearly not glamorous and you look like an urban sherpa, but on the upside it's filled with love.

Lunchtime outside on the concrete patio was also a success, not because of the venue, or the pb&j sandwiches, but the pigeons. It's hard to explain but the kids just loved shooing them when they came too close to their food. Once they realized these were bold pigeons, both Ronan and Nieve would chase after them with broad grins on their faces. After watching the two of them run after the birds with glee, we started planning a pigeon chasing trip to the financial district of San Francisco.

Highlight of going to one of the world's premiere aquariums? Chasing pigeons outside during lunch.

Pigeons. Now that we have email, what are they good for? Chasing, that's what.

After lunch we headed inside to the aquarium's version of a petting zoo - called 'touch pools' - and let the kids handle things like abalone, sea stars, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and kelp. Ronan really wanted to touch a bat ray but they unfortunately kept their distance.

Nieve loved getting her hands wet- she was also interested in the bumpy textures of the sea stars

We also noticed the increased amount of interaction between Nieve and Ronan, especially when they were given the freedom to follow their curiosity without one of us parents 'hovering' over their exploration. In particular they both loved a half hemisphere window that was accessible from the patio - they spent a good amount of time exploring it together. Nieve talked to Ronan as if he could understand whatever noises came out of her mouth and Ronan kept reassuring her with, "That's right Evie."

Nieve scheming with Ronan on how to best catch the fish

The two little ones seemed to play well together at the aquarium... perhaps we need a fish tank at home?

Of course both kids loved watching the penguins dart around the water, but again Ronan seemed more captivated by the cannery exhibit than most of the sea life. Nieve also spent a fair amount of time point and grunting at inanimate objects - though those happened to be the replica orcas and porpoises hanging from the rafters. She also barely made it back to the car before she fell asleep - the aquarium tuckered both kids out to the point that they slept the entire way home.

Ronan - the only child in the entire aquarium who was more interested in the cannery machines than the sea life


CalBadger said...

What fun! Great post, Erik!

aquaken said...

Awesome photo of the diver in the Kelp Forest!

Ken Peterson, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Erik said...

Thanks Ken! I'm sure you have plenty of images like it, but if you'd like a copy to use you are welcome to it (I can send you the high rez version).

You guys have done an outstanding job with the aquarium - it's a delightfully engaging learning environment for both children and adults.

Holly Teetzel said...

What a great day trip for all 4 of you. Great pix, too. I really like the second to last one of the backs of the 2 kids. Darling shot. And why am I not surprised that the machinery in and outside the tanks was what hooked Ronan. It looks like in 6 short weeks Nieve has gone from toddling around to running. They change so quickly. Loved reading about your fun day - very special.

Kris said...

Hi Erik, Ken Peterson asked me to contact you regarding sharing some of your images, we'd love to be able to use them. could you please send your e-mail address to kingram mbayaq dot org (put an "at" in the proper spot). Thanks!

Kris Ingram
Monterey Bay Aquarium