My children and I had an exciting visit to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium today. The girls enjoyed the seal feeding, shark tank, jellyfish tank (on of my personal favorites), and, of course, the festival of lights – lighthouse exhibit. However, I was drawn to the jellyfish work room. The room is equipped with a number of customized gear made of PVC pipes, customized tanks, and pump systems. I was drawn to a 5-gallon blue Crystal Rock water cooler bottle that was modified with a cut-off top and a huge air stone set upon a PVC structure/table. This “tank” was growing brine shrimp, sometimes in the common vernacular referred to as sea monkeys. These small macroscopic shrimp are used as planktonic food for the jellies.
I was excited to see this set up, because about 10 years ago when I was teaching marine biology, I had a similar setup in my classroom. The students and I used to construct devices and strategize ways to take care of our 55-gallon tanks. It was experiential learning at its best. We did our regular “curricular” things in that semester class, but my fondest memories were working side-by-side with the students finding ways to make our catches from Long Island Sound – our crabs, snails, mummichog fish, mussels, clams, and even the red beard sponge come alive in our classroom environment.
What was important was that we created the environment and made the tools to keep it running. Sure, we had pre-purchased some materials, but the art of the process was determining how we could build devices that made it our own.