Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aquarium Adventures

For our O-o-Octopus and Ocean unit this month, Don took a day off so that we could go on a family field trip to the New England Aquarium. Our town library offers a coupon pass to defray the cost of admission, and in order to avoid the $30+ Boston parking fee, we decided to make it a real adventure and take the train into the city. Boston's "T" is far from a glamorous way to travel, but besides being cheap (children ride for free!), the boys were excited about their first ride on a subway train that travels, as Hayden put it, "down into the dirt."

The adventure began with a drive, a long walk, a subway ride, switching trains for a short subway ride, several elevators, and a short walk through the cold winter air - all with three small children in tow, of course. We planned to arrive at the aquarium, eat lunch, see all the ocean creatures, and then ride the train back to our van in order to get home before the boys' bedtime. Don had thoughtfully remembered to bring some T tokens leftover from our pre-children days, but we discovered that the fare system had been updated and automated, and in our confusion, we ended up paying for the days' travels, and exchanging our tokens for a slip of paper worth a few more fares. It was after all this, as we entered the aquarium, when I realized that the lunchbox I had painstakingly packed with neatly labeled sandwiches, snacks, and beverages was not in the stroller as I had intended it to be; it was still in the van, which was now several miles and a few subway rides away.

During the ride to the train station, I had debated whether or not to eat my sandwich in the van, and now I was very glad I had decided to do so! I was worried about the boys, who had not eaten since breakfast, and Don and I would have even considered purchasing overpriced food from the museum cafe (something we would only consider under extenuating circumstances!), but just as we went in, a voice over the loudspeaker announced that the cafe would be closing. We decided to keep the boys distracted with all the fascinating creatures, and for the most part, it worked!

The aquarium visit was certainly a perfect conclusion to our ocean study. Although we did not get a good look at the octopus (he was huddled in the corner of his tank, with only a few tentacles in view), we did enjoy seeing a shark, moray eel, sea turtle, and tons of fish in the huge central tank. Other attractions included a jellyfish exhibit and an electric eel, just like the one we saw on our Moody Classics Experience with an Eel DVD.

The aquarium also features a hands-on tidepool area where children (and adults) can touch a sea star, mussels, and even hermit crabs. I vaguely remember visiting this exhibit in my own childhood, and our boys enjoyed it just as much, if not more than, I did years ago.

And of course, one of the highlights of an aquarium trip is always the penguins. When we visited the aquarium two years ago, the penguin exhibit was being renovated, so we were happy that the various penguin groups were back on display this time. Lydia slept through most of the adventure, but she woke up in time to pose for a picture with me.

It was around 5:00pm by the time we returned to our van and pulled into a parking lot to eat "lunch," but in spite of our blunders, our aquarium trip was a fun family day!

There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.

Psalm 104:25

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