5 ways to get the most out of hands on learning

Look and please touch, gearing up for home schooling at the Austin Aquarium.  Hands on learning is the only way to fly as far as I’m concerned. There is nothing like looking at a dolphin in a text-book and knowing for sure that they’re skin feels just like a canned olive. Although there weren’t any dolphins here at the Austin Aquarium there were so many other things  that you are encouraged to touch and even hold.Hands On


(This technique is called selective color. The reason I chose e to use this style is because inside of the aquarium the lighting is very poor for tack sharp images, then caused me to choose to use a high ISO, which then produced a grainer image. In my opinion these types of indoor images look great as a black and white BUT without the color of the bird the image loses some context.. So there you have it, the method behind the madness)

Bianca is being loved on by this aviary full of budgies. I may or may not have poured the bird seed in her hair to garner her a little more attention from the colorful flock. The large aviary where you can hold and feed the budgerigars or “budgie” is amazing. Interestingly, after Bianca and I did some research I found that most pet stores label these birds parakeets, but they’re wrong. A parakeet is a relative of the budgerigars, but not the same bird.

Sulcata Turtle

Sulcata Tortoise

Blake and I loved the Sulcata Tortoise also known as the African Spurred Tortoise. This big guy is the third largest tortoise in the world and the fastest growing amongst them. Just last week I was in the pet store with Blake and Robb begging Robb for a silver dollar sized version of this guy. I love turtles, we usually have some species of pond turtle that I’ve captured in a tank here in the house, Robb released my latest capture during his last scuba diving certification (insert tears here). I digress. Blake is feeding the turtle some foliage that is handed out for “small donations”. This piece of romaine, set us back five bucks, but it was totally worth it.

5 ways to get the most out of hands on learning

  • Ask Questions
    •  Most staff members that work in exhibits are there because they love what they do and are happy to answer questions about the subject matter they love. You will be surprised to find that when you genuinely share a common interest how much time a staff member will give you a backstage pass. Tip* Call ahead and find out when the slowest times are, this makes finding someone who has a little time to spend with you easier.
  • Keep a field journal
    • Taking a moment to sit down in front of what you see and describe or draw  is great way to have youngsters really stop for a moment to take things in.
  • Find out for yourself
    • Teaching children how to research what they’ve seen or been told is a valuable life lesson for many reasons. When we returned home from this excursion we all sat down and learned about the new animals that we met at the aquarium.
  • Take Pictures
    • Don’t just take pictures, print them and go over them often with your young child .  Taking pictures of young children like Blake and talking about the experience solidifies memories and learning.  I often wonder how much of the wonderful life experiences I expose them children to.  Will they remember?  I have found with our five-year old that making little books in word with her pictures in them and printing them out on the computer helped her hold onto memories we made when she was as found as 18 month.
  • Know when the party is over
    • Always try and end on a good note. We try to pay attention to when the kids are going to exploded in a sensory overload tantrum and leave just before then.
Sting rays

Sting ray tank. They look like they are smiling

I was very surprised how curious and friendly the sing rays acted towards us. IguanaThis iguana was the least friendly. The enclosure that he is in, is a small boat repurposed as a home for the big Iggy. His sun bathing rock was strategically placed far enough away from the edge of the boat for him to miss when he attempted to whip me with his tail. The lizards from St. Croix must have called him and told him I was coming.

Onyx is jet black, as her name suggest and everyday several people ask us what type of dog she is, and this day was no exception. Onyx is a black German Shepherd, from a working line. So she is a bit more stout than the black and tan or black and red shepherds. She’s built for speed!

Our service dog Onyx really enjoyed herself too. She thought the whole outing was for her, she peered in every single exhibit. If you are in the Austin Area I highly suggest the Austin Aquarium. Don’t be deceived by the quaint look on the outside, it is a world of fun!

The First Mate of Miss Lone Star

The First Mate of Miss Lone Star

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