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Life at the Touch Tank

Juliette Christian with a few young observers.

Juliette Christian with a few young observers.

February 22, 2018

The Chesapeake Bay Touch Tank is by far the most popular destination year round at the VLM. While most of the museum’s exhibits are welcoming to all ages, the Touch Tank is the destination where kids and kids-at-heart can enjoy and understand the VLM’s mission of connecting people to nature through interactive, immersive experiences.

Hear what some of our volunteers have to say!

When asked about their favorite part of volunteering at the Touch Tank, Maysea Bryant (volunteer for 3 months) enjoys being able to teach the children about the different types of animals. Volunteering at the Touch Tank also taught her not to be as shy. Jaden Moore and her mother Kimberly Moore (volunteers for 6 months) enjoy observing the animals’ behavior close up, and getting to pass on their knowledge to others while learning more themselves.

Janet O’Neil Clark (volunteer for 10 years) said the following about the Touch Tank:

“Children who visit the museum on field trips are almost always excited to be at the Touch Tank. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever been able to touch a live sea creature! The Touch Tank is one of the areas of the VLM that they are most sure to remember after they leave”

Kaitlyn Carter (volunteer for 2 years) stated her favorite part of the Touch Tank is the horseshoe crabs.

“My favorite part about the touch tank is showing guests that the horseshoe crabs are not scary in any way but are a wonderful animal with a great deal of history. Horseshoe crabs are also called living fossils and have been on Earth for a long time, which is awesome. They also help humans in the medical realm! I love teaching guests all about them and showing that they are truly harmless.”

The Touch Tank also helps promote conservation. Pam McGrath (volunteer for 7 years) said:

“I tell folks not to throw trash into various waterways. Don’t let your kids bring the hermit crabs away from the water.”

Beverly Hanlin (volunteer for 8 months) said:

“Working at the Touch Tank has helped me realize how important all of these animals are to the ecological environment and each has a specific role to play in the food chain.”

Janet O’Neil Clark also spoke on how she helps promote conservation.

“We talk about animals in the wild being wild—not pets. Many times I’m able to mention the effect humans have on species without our realizing it (littering harming sea turtles, for example). I also listen to their stories of creatures they’ve found on the beach or the hermit crabs they might have at home. This friendly interaction—talking, observing, touching—makes learning much more effective than lecturing. It gives them something to talk about later, after they’ve left the museum.”

For fun, we had asked volunteers the whimsical question of: If you could live the life of any of the Touch Tank animals, what animal would you choose and why?

Maysea, Kaitlyn, and Pam all said they wanted to live as spider crabs. Kaitlyn says spider crabs are very elusive and great at hiding. Maysea thinks spider crabs are just plain cool, and Pam would love to be a spider crab because they can regrow their limbs if they were trapped and lost one!

Beverly would wish to live as a sea star, because they are “graceful as they move and they remind me of the stars in the sky.”

Janet O’Neil Clark said that if she had to be a creature in the Touch Tank, she would choose to be a Sheepshead Minnow, because unlike the other hard-working critters that are picked up, flipped over, held above the water, and poked and stroked by curious fingers, the minnows in the tank are safe!

Jaden would love to live as a hermit crab because she thinks it would be cool to switch “houses”, while Kim would rather live as a whelk because she describes herself as a homebody. Plus, they are very beautiful and have few enemies.

Apply now, and you could be sharing a few hours of your week with us to promote conservation and awareness of our Chesapeake Bay critters.

By Mahina Robbins
Volunteer Services Intern

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