So I have officially planned, and successfully delivered, the first of our ocean discovery days. This time it was Junior Aquarists.
I had started out with a set plan in my head, things I wanted the children to do and what I wanted them to learn from me, and from being in the aquarium. Most of what I had planned worked out, but these things always seem to fill more time than expected.
We started the day by following the water into the aquarium, seeing where we pump it in from the harbour, peeking in the pump shed (we didn’t go in as there is a wasp nest in there), following the pipes into the building and then seeing it flowing into the tanks in the aquarium. We then walked around the aquarium looking at all the creatures in the tanks, checking on their health and making sure the water flow was good.
We then learnt about the water, why it is so important for the creatures, how to test for parameters like salinity, pH and Ammonia levels, and how we can help keep things like ammonia levels low and dissolved oxygen levels high.
I thought by this time we probably ought to get stuck in. The boys were keen to clean the tanks which was great, we did encounter a few problems though. Henry, who is only 7, was too small to reach into several of our tanks, we managed to find a couple he could clean and Jude did the rest.
While cleaning the big tank they did get slightly distracted by the dogfish, and Jude decided they needed a clean as well.
After lunch we did a bit of catch and release. We set crab lines up so they were hanging off a pontoon and left them while we decided which creatures to release. We released common starfish, shore crabs and a furrowed crab. The crab lines didn’t work as well as we hoped, Henry got one shore crab but Jude’s bait was stolen.
The rain had eased off by this point and the tide was quite low, perfect for going onto the beach bit of the harbour and seeing what we could find. I was hoping we might find some hermit crabs but we found something better; Butterfish. We caught 3 of them. Henry picked us up some cockles, I brought back two oysters, and Jude caught some little prawns.
After we had made sure all of our new creatures were safely put in the temporary touch pool we could have a good look at them. The boys got out the identification guides and designed their own information boards about their favourite creature, with a little drawing and some cool facts. I pitched in as well, although I think I could have taken a leaf from their book and made mine a bit more colourful.
We had also planned a surprise treat for Henry and Jude. The octopus needed to be released and to do that we had to get out to deeper water. As there was only two of them, we were able to take the boys out in the boat to do an extra special octopus release.
We headed out towards Aros pier and Calve Island. I leant over the side and let the octopus go. It was actually very reluctant, I had to ease it off the bucket lid, but as soon as it let go it turned a nice happy dark red colour and swam off along the surface of the water.
I think the boys had a great day, they left with smiles anyway. We also gave them a certificate as they are now qualified junior aquarists. As well as a mini shrimp aquarium (when I was a kid they were called sea-monkeys).
I can’t wait to run the next Ocean Discovery Day….