Want your school age child to experience what it is like to be a sea turtle swimming in the Sargasso Sea? How about giving your preschooler a chance to learn about “Their Florida” while checking out Hermit Crabs, and spending time in a fun Mommy and Me environment?
Thanks to The Florida Aquarium I was invited to preview their new Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center. This neat addition to the complex not only will perk a school age child’s interest, but will also give younger children a fun area to play and explore in.
The Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center encompasses over 5,000 square feet and is intended to focus on youth and promote creativity. It is meant to depart from a traditional classroom setting and create an immersive environment with engaging and interactive exhibits.
Now before I say anything else about this new learning center let me just express, “WOW on the technology”. They have really put in the latest and greatest with TV’s throughout, a lab, and interactive Mondo Pads.
Since I was visiting with my husband and toddler, our logical first stop was an area for younger kids called In My Backyard.
This section of the center focuses more on preschool age children, and learning about local habitats and animals.
There are round tables set up around the room with terrariums, toys in the back, and a family friendly bathroom. Programs showcased here will be held via the Aquatots every Wednesday.
Of course my Little Guy checked out the Hermit Crab at his table, visited a tent set up next to a full size indoor tree, and even sat down to draw a picture.
After we explored this room, we then headed out into the main area to learn about Operation Tango.
The Operation Tango Experience is an educational program designed to immerse students into the case of a missing loggerhead sea turtle. Lead via the monitors by a marine life researcher named Angela, the adventure will take students on a quest through 3 learning spaces including Coastal Florida, Open Ocean, and the Green Room.
Ideally, students would start out in the middle of the learning center at the “Turtle Base Tampa Hub“.
Then they would make their way out into one of the learning areas to follow the story of Tango.
To follow this quest, our first stop was the Coastal Florida room. There we checked out live animals showcased in an Aquarium.
I took an opportunity to touch a Crab and a Pencil Urchin.
Next we headed to the Open Ocean area. This room is covered in murals depicting scenes in a turtles environment. They are then transformed by bioluminescent lights giving the room a real under water feel. My little guy wasn’t so sure about that overhead Scuba Diver.
Also, on each of the tables there were boxes with examples of creatures and materials you would find in the Sargasso Sea.
We then headed over to an onsite Lab. Although not part of Operation Tango program, this area is available to students and is intended to look and function like a real scientific environment. It is fully equipped with microscopes, water quality equipment, and modern lab materials.
It also has plenty of hands on items like animal bones, feather, x-rays, and more.
Finally, we visited the Green Room. This part of the Tango Experience is where students will learn about conservation and is meant to resemble a field station.
While there we also listened to a presentation about the Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center and how the area came to be what it is today and got to meet the individuals responsible for the planning that went into the area.
After the presentation and our tour concluded, we then headed out and check out the rest of the Aquarium.
Have you ever visited the Florida Aquarium before? After seeing what the Carol J. and Barney Barnett Learning Center has to offer, what is your favorite part?
If you live in Tampa and surrounding areas, I encourage you mention this program to your school’s educators. You can also book it for birthday parties, sleepovers, workshops, and it will also be utilized over the summer for camp. Be sure to check this out along with other Programs at The Florida Aquarium.
I am hoping my 2 older children will have an opportunity soon to experience this center, and Operation Tango.