For our family a trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium is like a pilgrimage. It takes planning and sacrifice because it is not close and we no relatives to stay with in the area. There are aquariums that are closer but going to CMA is such a personal experience that it is worth the trek. Prepping for this trip is easy. My children are already engaged on the subject. Most of the “school” work they have not realized they were doing because they love the subject so much.

Research– time for a trip to the library or bookstore. We have read so many dolphin books that my kids should be getting a masters degree in the field! Some they read alone others we use as read aloud. Here is a list of some of our favorites:

Writing- The girls are gathering their research into their own text books. The record the information they find interesting on post its. Later they will sort through their data and record it in a book format. For special projects like this I let them use a Blank Book. There is something about having a finished book at the end that excites them and causes them to be slightly more careful with their editing.

It might be fun to make a dolphin shape poem. Use an outline of a dolphin and have the child fill it in with words inspired by the creatures.

While we are at the aquarium the girls will each have a notebook to record information about the different animals.

Art -If they are creating a text book they are going to need illustrations. We checked out the Watch Me Draw: Dolphins, Whales, Fish & More book to practice drawing dolphins. I also picked up these great realistic dolphins sticker books on our trip to the Loggerhead Marine Hospital in Jupiter. They are great to add to the pages of the books if your child is not confident with their drawing. At the Aquarium they will also take their own pictures of Winter, Hope and Nicholas that they can include in the books if they want.

I also encourage the girls to make their own playthings. You can trace a dolphin outline onto cardboard, cut it out and have the kids paint or color it. Then their dolls will have a pet dolphin to play with. You could do the same with felt.

PE- This should be done in a pool but it can be adapted for land. We like to play dolphin trainer. Each child takes a turn directing the other what trick they should preform. Before a trip to the aquarium have them make their own signals. At the aquarium they will be much more tuned into the trainers movements.  Play again after the trip and see what they picked up.

Drama-This one my kids came up with on their own but it can be parent initiated. The girls planned a water play using the dolphins from CMA. It is similar to the dolphin trainer game except they wrote a script and planned who was going to be each character. (This kept them busy for weeks over the summer)

Activism- Clearwater Marine Aquarium is trying to help save a severely endangered species of Dolphin called the Vaquita. On their website there is a petition and background info including videos. The campaign is called Winter’s Hope for the Vaquita. There are less then 100 Vaquita in the world.

They can also plan their own “I support Winter” fundraiser. CMA will send a fundraising kit for the cost of shipping that includes posters, stickers and thank you cards.

Computer is a great site to navigate and find out interesting info before your trip. I feel safe letting them explore this site (though the gift shop part causes some issues) They love being able to control the webcam to find Winter and Hope in their pools.

Prosthetics- The creation of Winter’s prosthetic was an amazing demonstration of how science and compassion can meet. While at the Aquarium you will see several versions of Winter’s Prosthetic but it might be good to prep your child on what exactly a prosthetic is and other use for them besides rescuing Winter. If you have a grabber you can have your child attempt to function using that for a half hour or try to not use an arm or their legs for a period of time. Another movie that has inspired us is Soul Surfer. Though surfer Brittany Hamiliton chooses not use the prosthetic it is discussed in both the book and the film. Her autobiography is an easy inspiring read that I have given to a few young girls going through tough times.

If you have some makers in the family you might encourage them to make their own prosthetic for themselves, a pet or a toy.

More than Dolphins