by Jessica Bradford
After recently volunteering with Back to the Sea at the Discovery Centre’s An Ocean of Discovery during Oceans Week HFX on June 10th, I wanted to share some of my experiences and recap my three favourite things about touch tanks as an ocean education tool.
We are, of course, lucky to live alongside the beautiful North Atlantic Ocean, but accessing our cold waters enough to really get to know the plants and animals found there is not always easy. Touch tanks bring the ocean to us, making the opportunity to learn about, observe, and appreciate our local marine life an experience that is accessible to all.
During three hours of volunteering at An Ocean of Discovery, over 150 people came by the touch tanks to scope out our sandy and rocky habitats and to meet the sea critters in each. That means, more than 150 adults and children were able to participate in this amazing and unique learning opportunity. That's not counting the additional 100 people who visited the touch tanks in the afternoon portion of the day.
Tiny blood star
Touch tanks are a hands-on and multi-sensory learning experience. This may include touching the suction-like tube feet of a common sea star, watching a hermit crab hide in its shell, seeing and hearing a soft-shelled clam squirt water out through its siphon, smelling the scents of the sea, feeling the coldness of the tank water, and so much more!
As a volunteer with Back to the Sea, I have had the privilege of not only meeting and connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds, but I also get to help facilitate connections between people and our cold water marine life. Seeing people touch a green sea urchin for the first time and going from apprehension to wonder in a matter of seconds will never get old to me! It is such an incredible connection to watch people form.
This list could go on! If you have not had a chance to visit a touch tank yet and have your own close encounters with marine life, then keep an eye on news and events for any upcoming opportunities.
Thank you to the Back to the Sea team for welcoming me as a volunteer – looking forward to many more Touch Tank Days in the future!