Every year, Monterey Bay Aquarium has a set of FREE homeschool days. These days sell out really quickly, so if you are in CA and are interested, I recommend getting on the email list to be notified of the next sign-up period which will probably be in August. We were able to get 3 adult tickets as well as a ticket for Otter for this year. The 4 tickets we received for free were the equivalent of $136, so these homeschool days are quite a treat that normally wouldn’t be in our budget. The extra adult tickets are great if you have a grandparent or older “grown up” sibling who’d like to come along!
During these special days, the aquarium opens up their Discovery Lab classroom with drop-in activities, touch tanks, crafts and plenty of docents on hand to explain and teach a variety of information on sea creatures and the ocean. It’s a beautiful aquarium with a huge variety of exhibits that takes a good 3-5 hours to walk through. Each year there is usually some sort of new or rotating exhibit so there is alway something “fresh” to see, even though we’ve been many times.
If you aren’t in CA or local to Monterey, I highly encourage you to contact your local museums and other similar venues to see if they have a program like this or free/reduced days. We’ve always considered activities like this an important component of our homeschool, rich with opportunities to see and learn new things!
Here are some pictures from our recent visit.
We love the jellyfish exhibits! They are so beautiful…
The Open Sea exhibit features a HUGE tank full of different types of fish and sharks. The glittering schools of sardines are mesmerizing.
The kelp forest features a multi-story aquarium with living strands of kelp. All sorts of fish glide among the kelp. There are benches where you can sit, relax and watch the fish. The picture doesn’t even do this exhibit justice. It’s HUGE.
This year there was a seahorse exhibit. The variety of seahorses is amazing. This one is called a leafy sea dragon.
In the Discovery Lab classroom (my dream science lab!!!) we were able to investigate all sorts of interesting things like a stuffed sea otter (you can’t believe how soft and thick their fur is), touch tanks, etc. Younger children were busy with crafts and other fun activities. Volunteers were on hand to instruct and answer questions. In the picture below, Bob is teaching us about some of the animals. Afterwards, Otter fed a sea anemone some kelp.
The aquarium also has a lovely aviary with all sorts of rescued seashore birds. They are quite tame and you can stand within just a couple of feet. Near the aviary there is also a shallow pool where you can touch manta rays. In another area there is a small colony of penguins where you can watch them both above and below the water.
Otter and I touched sea cucumbers, anemones, starfish and other creatures in a touch tank:
Some of the fish seem just as curious about us as we are of them as they swim by. This fish paused and stared at me for awhile. I think he’s a dolphinfish.
After visiting the aquarium we walked up and down Cannery Row to visit antique stores, sample some clam chowder and peek into the shops. We wrapped up the day with a very special dinner at a local restaurant that had floor to ceiling windows overlooking the bay where we could see wild sea otters playing in nearby kelp beds. We had a great time!