Aquarium (or, Preparation is Key)

There was a lot of cool stuff to do in Baltimore–we didn’t even have time for everything we wanted to cover–but, unsurprisingly, the thing I was looking forward to the most was the National Aquarium.

The Aquarium–that bit up in the top is their indoor rainforest!
Ready to go in: “I will see a shark and it will be my friend with his teeth.”

My friend and former boss man Rob Bland used to say that you could do anything in 48 hours, given the right amount of preparation. Rafe Esquith writes about preparing his students before taking them to Washington, DC, so that they have some context for what they are looking at.

In that spirit, I worked, very intentionally, to prepare Silas for the Aquarium. We wore through our library card, checking out books on coral reefs, rain forests, and even the concept of an aquarium. Some favorites were My Visit to the Aquarium, Sea Horse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea, and In The Rainforest (Magic School Bus). We also watched Finding Nemo, Ponyo, and Disney Nature: Oceans. By the time we got there, Silas knew a jawfish from an angelfish from a pufferfish. He was ready.

Less prepared, but equally fascinated.
Take my kid to a multi-million-dollar facility, and he will find some $10 puppets to play with.
Jellyfish face with a jellyfish art installation
Ibis in the rainforest

When we were home, he found a picture of an ibis in a book and told me, “We saw this bird like this in the canopy at the rainforest at the aquarium.”

We went late in the afternoon, when the Aquarium website suggested it would be less busy. It was still completely insane.

He loved the jellies–a whole exhibit of them. They looked like space aliens.

The only disappointment he mentioned was that the octopus was very hard to see.

I was proud of Silas–he observed all of the fish carefully, especially the ones in the bigger tanks where he could get close to them at his own toddler-y height. He loved “Shark Alley,” which is at the bottom of a ramp that wraps around the inside of a giant tank, full of sharks and rays. He may have rolled his eyes at some elementary school kids who were referring to clownfish as “Nemos.”

After the dolphin show

All of that prep paid off. He pointed out things he recognized and said, “It’s just like in my book.” All of that prior knowledge gave him the scaffolding he needed to fully experience the Aquarium.

Petra enjoyed the dolphin show–she even clapped and pointed at them.



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