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Who eats whom?

August 18th, 2003 · 1 Comment

I wouldn’t usually drive three hours to enjoy ten minutes but, hey, it was a frenzy, a feeding frenzy, lots of fun and well worth three dollars (+ gas!) to go.

Today I took my girls to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center . We had only gone once before, in April of 2002 – when Abigail was 3 and Michaela 1. Michaela is now twice as old as she was then, and although Abigail said the parking lot was familiar, I don’t think she remembered it either. It is a bit of a trip from Bainbridge Island to Fort Worden State Park, including two bridges, but I think we’ll be going again and again….

This Marine Science Center to me is a treat. The Seattle Aquarium with its sophistication and variety, it is not, but it is a wonderful place for exploration and simple science. It is small, probably about the size of the first floor of our house, 1000 square feet or so, and there are four large fingers of touch tanks, like tide pools, with concrete border shaped to resemble rock. The rock was designed with built-in step stools: there are corners and crevices, bumps and lumps for children to climb up and get a closer view, a deeper reach. I find it creative, interactive and fun. Crabs, anemones, plants, sea cucumbers, sea pens, sea stars, sea urchins, fish and all kinds of native sea creatures, including a brilliant red sea peach, a new one for me to see, fill the tanks. Abigail and Michaela had fun getting their hands wet and petting the animals. Michaela found a “baby” starfish she liked, beside its “mommy”. Abigail liked getting “kisses” from the sea urchins.

The PTMSC is great especially for kids. On a trip this spring to the Seattle Aquarium, Michaela constantly complained “I can’t see.” But today she had a great time looking at all the wonders in the tanks, scrambling up the built-in rock step-stools. Even the few big classic glass fish tanks are low enough that she could marvel at some eel-like fish and shrimp at the bottom. I appreciate the design and the helpful staff and volunteers. And it’s rare to find a place nowadays that doesn’t charge even for five-year-olds – we took 4 family members and paid only $3 – just for me! (Kids 6 to 18 are $2 each. )

Each day the center is open, staff presents a program at 2:30 pm. When we had visited in April 2002, we had happened to come on a day when they did “Who eats whom?” I enjoyed it and wanted to take the children to it again, so I consulted the schedule and decided to go today. “Who eats whom?” was a educational and interactive presentation : first, ten minutes of lecture, discussing five categories of feeders – herbivores, scavengers, carnivores, filter feeders, and detritus feeders. For example I learned that octopus like crab, and that sea cucumbers are “vacuum cleaners” (detritus). Urchins eat seaweed with star-shaped bites.

Then, the frenzy started. The staff member handed out bits of fish and we were allowed to feed the animals in the touch tank. Last time I remembered getting one piece of fish which Abigail fed to a crab. But this time we stationed ourselves at a particular tank. Our family of four had one tank all to ourselves even – and then we were given lots of fish bits (cod) to feed all the crabs and anemones in our tank. Each of the girls also got a mussel to feed to the large pink sea star in the neighboring tank. It looked like some kind of aquatic teddy bear, pale pink and big, almost cuddly, but slow to respond to food, too slow at least for the girls to stay still and watch. The feeding time went fast – only about 10 minutes, I noticed – but it was fun even if we got fishy fingers.

Afterwards, we went across the street to the Natural History Exhibit (both the MSC and NHE for one price!) There we admired fossils including a million-year-old salmon . We looked at samples of rocks and sand, an otter skeleton and pelt, a selection of bird skulls. A friendly volunteer helped us through a couple displays about the geographic history of this area. It was almost funny to learn that palm trees once grew here – in the cold rainy NW! And also interesting that most recently, in geological history, there were huge glaciers here, putting tremendous pressure on the land (giving us our clay soil!), during an ice age from 1 million to 12,000 years ago.

Then it was time for the drive home, a time to think about all we had learned today, time to meditate on the discoveries, on diversity and design, on creatures and a creative Creator who formed sea urchins and sand dollars, hermit crabs and octopus, otters and salmon, bird beaks and palm trees. Ice and water, rock and plants His tools to shape the land through time, forming hills and valleys, islands and inlets, where now the highway runs, a black ribbon of road taking us all home.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts // Jul 13, 2004 at 8:28 am

    Eatin’ alive

    Last year I described our annual journey to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. On our first visit, we happened to enjoy the Who Eats Whom? program and this is now the third time and the third year we’ve…