Clear Water Marine Aquarium is the perfect homeschool field trip. You can learn all about some of the famous residents of the aquarium by watching the Dolphin Tales movies before you go.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium recently as a family. And it was such an amazing experience that none of us will ever forget. We learned a lot and we had a ton of fun too!
Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a nonprofit working marine rescue center dedicated to inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. CMA is home to rescued dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more. The mission and potential to change people’s lives differentiates Clearwater Marine Aquarium from any other aquarium in the world.
Sparking an Interest Before the Field Trip
To help spark an interest before our visit we of course watched both Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. Next, we read through a few books about the true story of Winter and Hope. Last, we looked up what animals would be present at the aquarium and did some research on them as well.
Dolphin Tale (2011)Dolphin Tale 2 (With Bonus Features)Winter’s Tail: How One Little DolphinHope for Winter: The True StoryNational Geographic Readers: DolphinsNational Geographic Readers: Sea OttersNational Geographic Readers: Sea TurtlesOcean: A Visual Encyclopedia
Learning While on Location at the Aquarium
While we love to learn beforehand none of it was really needed because there are more than enough smiling faces there to answer any and all questions you may have about the animals. This was probably one of my favorite features. As a homeschool mom I know the value of interest based learning and Clearwater Marine Aquarium totally delivered on that!
If like us you are there to learn more about the animals and what the aquarium does, you’re in luck. They do an amazing job of providing as many learning opportunities as possible. There are multiple interactive areas for kids with things to read and buttons to press. There are also displays that tell the story of all the animals that live there. As well as frequent talks to teach you even more.
While we were at the aquarium we were able to see dolphins playing, otters being trained, turtles being fed, and so much more. We were also able to pet and feed sting rays.
It was very refreshing to see all of the animals so happy at the aquarium and to have the opportunity to see all of the hands on experience with them as they were being trained and care for.
CMA does such a good job of making as much as possible open and accessible to the public. If there had been a surgery happening at the time we could have watched from the large window that is public access.
Next, we explored Clearwater Bay during a 60-minute eco-boat cruise. Learning about members of the local dolphin population, traveling around a bird sanctuary island, and viewing the local wildlife. Our captain was very patient and tried his best to make sure we saw a dolphin in the wild. And we did!
The last thing we did was hand-down the BEST part of the entire day. Emily was able to meet Thelma, the resident nurse shark, and all her friends in the lower mangrove habitat during the shark experience.
She had the opportunity to help the trainer feed Thelma and was even able to learn some of the commands they use with her. For instance they tap a stick three times on the bottom on the raft to “summon” her.
Emily was a little timid at first but the trainer was extremely kind, patient, and reassuring. By the time it was over Emily had built the confidence to not just feed Thelma but to pet her too! It was a dream come true experience for Emily for sure.
The aquarium was very clean and was doing an amazing job at social distancing and doing their best to keep everyone safe. We all felt extremely comfortable there. If you are not able to visit in person for any reason make sure you utilize the live webcams that Clearwater Marine Aquarium graciously setup.