This weekend I went with our Cub Scout pack to the North Carolina Aquarium at Ft. Fisher near Wilmington. We had the unique opportunity to spend time ”Sleeping with the Fishes” without the threat of a mob boss making it a permanent arrangement. I have to say, that this is one of those times when technology does not need to be the medium for learning. I am sure that may be a shocking statement coming from one who spends his days and even his nights extolling the virtues of becoming technologiacally literate. I am also a teacher and believe that the technology can’t replace some things, like the excitement of reaching out an touching nature.
We arrived on Friday night with our mostly 9 and 10 year old boys and a parent or two for each and got set up. Sleeping on the floor, in a sleeping bag, on a cot or an air mattress in front of a soaring tank of fish is an experience I can’t put into words. It is just something you need to experience. Telling you that I looked up and saw a Sand Tiger Shark swim by as I lay on my cot is a far cry from actually being there and seeing it. As well, waking up to see the sunrise slice through the tank and fish swimming through the light with flashes from their colorful scales just cannot be captured in a photo. Let me emphasize that I am not a great photographer when fully awake so at first light–count your blessings I don’t attempt it and then share. That would be seconds of your life you would never get back.
Our 15 hour odessy began after setting up “camp” and moving to see a live box turtle, snakes, and an American Alligator named Dot. Wonderful experiences for our boys to touch (carefully and gently) members of the animal kingdom that normally would either run away or attempt to make them a snack. We handled various types of Shark jaws with teeth intact. The Aquarium is anticipating their acceptance of a Megaladon Jaw complete with real and replica teeth. Some of those teeth are as big as your face!
Beyond the presentations, the hands on with our friends from another kingdom (you may remember from science – kingdom, phylum, genus, species…..) there was some creative fun and culture in personalizing tee-shirts with fish printing. I digress for a moment that in our Art program we have just added a new Macbook pro, scanner, digital cameras, Bamboo electronic tablet and software….lots of software. I love that the art teachers have their own techology tools but allow me to implore: never abandon painting a fish (rubber or real) and printing it on a tee shirt. Fish printing is an art form in Japan and it was so cool to see neon flounder or purple starfish painted creatively and then pressed carefully on a shirt by kids and adults alike.
After the fun of the evening, the tee shirts drying and all of us prepped for light’s out as the fishes “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming….” we started drifting off to sleep….
The next morning we arose, we shined, we saw fish and other wildlife once again. The morning allowed us a private tour of the aquarium and more hands on experiences. Below is one of my new favorite pictures. Two kids sitting in a convex (or concave from the ‘inside the tank’ perspective) watching the fish in the tank and getting audibly excited as different and newly named friends swam on by.
The tour was great. The experience was great. I do believe that our scouts were enriched by the educational and fun experience. The technology in this post? I used my iPhone to take the pictures but was otherwise unplugged from the technology for that period of time. I have documentation of the experience due to the technology I carry. I can share that as I have done here. I have memories of the experience that are uniquely my own and I am a better person for it. I can say with some reasonable sureity that my wife and boys have their own views and experiences that add to their lives too.
The point? Sometimes, even for a technology centric person, it’s not about the technology.