ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Kids touch sea stars as the New England Aquarium comes to the Saugus Public Library.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
SAUGUS — About 90 children dove into the adventures of The New England Aquarium without having to travel to Boston.
A $500 grant from the Saugus Cultural Council funded a three-hour presentation by the aquarium’s traveling education outreach program at the Saugus Public Library.
“We just want to support the children’s curiosity,” said Children’s Librarian Amy Melton. “It’s great that they’re learning about the natural world around us, especially with our location being so close to the ocean.”
The program teaches children about local marine life and habitats and encourages them to develop a stronger connection to science. The tide pools program specifically focuses on ocean science. It’s split up into separate segments for different age groups to cater the lesson so the children get the most out of the experience.
Program educator Danny Trigone, a marine biologist, teaches multiple hour-long classes, 5 to 6 days each week.
“My goal is really to give them a sense that these animals are local and build a future generation of ocean stewards at an early age,” said Trigone. “We also teach them that they have the power to protect these animals.”
The toddler level provides sensory exploration with a story-time style lesson with flash cards and photos followed by hands-on activities with the sea creatures they just learned about. The six through eight age group deepens the context of what elementary school students are learning in school about habitats and adaptations. The children investigate and touch tanks that represent three New England coastal habitats.
In a third session, the students learn about how coastal animals have adapted to life in their environment and interact with the animals they live with.
“It was weird that on the hermit crab the skeleton was on the outside and on the starfish, he had lots of eyes,” said 4-year-old Mackenzie Rafferty.
Adriana Mazin, 5, said she found it odd that the starfish had eyes on its legs, rather than above its mouth, which she also believed was in a strange place at the center of its body. Five-year-old Connor Gaudet was concerned the spider crab may have been dead, but then remembered that he learned that the creature tries to blend in with its environment on The Octonauts, a show on Disney Channel.
“I’m really happy the library offered this program — it’s a benefit to the town to have things like this,” said parent Talisa Rafferty.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte