EDITOR’S NOTE: Diego Cicero is a High Tech High Media Arts student who recently participated in a month-long internship at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. The internship program is designed to foster personal growth and help students acquire workplace skills in a real-world environment. Diego assisted the aquarium’s education programs and blogged about his experiences.
By Diego Cicero, High Tech High intern
There are a wide variety of educational programs offered at Birch Aquarium. My personal favorite is Sandy Shores. Children in second grade learn how sand is made—from larger rocks into smaller and smaller pieces until it is sand. This program offers children a chance to learn and appreciate life in our sands. There are many creatures that call sand their home.
In Sandy Shores, there are three stations. At one station, students view different kinds of sand under a microscope and draw what they see on their paper. At another station, the group makes a creature of their own with an adaptation that would help them survive in the sandy shores. The third station is my favorite to lead. It’s the one where kids draw sandy shore animals and then get to touch them. “Only touch with two fingers, though. We want to be gentle with these little guys,” I remind them. One little girl asks, “Will the sea urchin hurt me?” “It doesn’t want to hurt you. It has those spikes to make sure other animals don’t eat it,” I reply as I show her they’re fine to touch.
When teacher Art Smart shows the second graders some sand littered with bits of plastics and other trash, there is a unanimous cry of “ewww.” After seeing white and coral sands, sand with trash is far less mesmerizing. Art explains to the students that all of the animals they see here—sand crabs, sea snails, sand dollars, and sea urchins—have adapted to living in the sand.
Learning to appreciate marine habitats such as the sandy shore is an important lesson for second graders. In fact, it’s important for everyone to learn about!