My friend Kate (geez, I have the coolest friends) has an article in the new Monterey County Weekly about whale watching in our bay this summer, which has been fantastically stellar (modify superlatives? why yes, I think I will, thank you.).
In one paragraph, Kate states, "Connecting with nature is the best way to inspire children to grow up committed to conservation, according to educator David Sobel, author of Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. It’s crucial to give children a chance to build a lasting, nourishing love of the wild before they are burdened with worries about overwhelming environmental problems. Observing nature can also help lengthen attention spans and combat digital addiction." (emphasis mine)
Back in April of this year I wrote a couple pieces about my feelings on the new exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and how I thought they missed the mark for kids, making much the same point Kate does. Jenny Sayre Ramberg of the Aquarium picked up the blog piece right away, and we proceeded to have an interesting discussion within the comments. I also wrote a follow-up blog on the subject. That is as far as I got at the time. Until now.
Besides Kate's article which gave me renewed interest and vigor in the subject, I am rather concerned about what might be happening as the MBA takes down the beloved Outer Bay tank for the next 10 months to revamp it into the "Open Sea" exhibit coming in July 2011. First, let me say that the Outer Bay is/was a classic. In place since 1996, it is an enormous wall of glass where you can watch from ground level or sit upstairs in the dark and take in hammerheads, tuna, rays, and an amazing array of amazing creatures go on by. The balcony seats are the best in the house, in my opinion. I've been taking Isaac there since he was 3 months old. The beauty is unmatched, but more, the serenity is untouchable.
With the new and "improved" exhibit, they promise to address climate change and plastics pollution, as "as always" point to positive solutions. So my question again is HOW will that happen? In what FORM and in what ORDER at EYE LEVEL will these things come at us? I am also not comforted by the dangling carrot of more "multi-media experiences." Again, in my past discussion of this topic, I stated that I thought the screens were being a little too heavily relied on and upstaging the animals themselves. I don't want to play a game about a sea turtle, I want to watch one swim by. I don't want to be sucked in (and have my child sucked in) to a video of the sunfish, when -- if the tourists would quick flashing their bloody cameras for a second -- one might swim by in the flesh.
My aquarium renewal notice just arrived in the mail...I'm no Julie Packard when it comes to my ability to financially support this resource, but still. I need to know how my money will be spent.
Jenny, I think I will have to belatedly take up your offer to give you a ring at the aquarium. Hope to talk to you soon.