A day out as Junior Marine Explorers

DISSECTING slimy squids and filtering soil and wet sand from water – not exactly part of a kid’s typical Sunday routine.

But 23 kids got their hands dirty last Sunday (21 July) at the Junior Marine Explorers programme at Marine Life Park (MLP), specially organised in conjunction with the Singapore Science Festival 2013. The programme brought the children, aged eight to 12, behind the scenes to experience how the S.E.A. Aquarium is run and gave them a few science lessons.

Denzel Ho, 9, and George Yeo, 8, try their hands at dissecting a squid.
From left: Denzel Ho, 9, and George Yeo, 8, try their hands at dissecting a squid.

For instance, the squid dissection, probably the most anticipated activity of the day, got them on their feet, with the majority grabbing the chance to be marine biologist for a day with both hands in rubber gloves. Armed with a pair of scissors, the MLP education team taught them the different parts of the squid like the ink sac and the functions of each body part.

Filter fun: Tang Yee Teng. 11, and Nicole Ong, 10, testing their filtration system.
Filter fun: Tang Yee Teng. 11, and Nicole Ong, 10, having a ball of a time while they test their filtration system.

Understanding the concept of filtration was also brought to life as the education team taught the kids how to build a home-made filter, using readily found items such as sand, cotton wool and pebbles.

Who eats what?
Who eats what?

Prior to getting their hands dirty with dirt and squid ink, the kids were brought to the Fish Feed Storage, where they got a first-hand experience on how aquarists prepare some 300kg of food for more than 80,000 marine animals daily.

Rows and rows of sand filters greet the explorers at the Life Support System plant.
Rows and rows of sand filters greet the explorers at the Life Support System plant.

Needless to say, a behind the scenes trip to the world’s largest aquarium is not complete without visiting the Life Support System plant. Holding a gargantuan 42.8 million litres of water, the filtration system in the aquarium is one of the most critical tenets of the aquarium. While they couldn’t see how seawater pumped from Keppel Bay was cleaned, the children stood next to hundreds of sand filters and foam fractionators, almost three times their height. Out of a total of 216 sand filters, 75 are used to filter the Open Ocean Habitat alone.

Say cheese, sharkies!
Say cheese, sharkies!

Feeding marine animals is a daily occurrence for many aquarists, so the children got a treat when they witnessed an aquarist target feeding formidable sharks at the Shark tank. Target feeding refers to the method of feeding one particular fish at a time. This will ensure that all marine animals get fed. Squealing with delight as a hammerhead shark chomped off an entire fish, the children whipped out their mobile phones to snap the frenetic action for posterity.

Overall, it was a Sunday well spent for the children. Tang Yee Teng, 11, from Methodist Girls’ School gave the programme the thumbs up, saying: “We can find out what’s going on behind the scenes and learn how the aquarists prepare the food.”

And of course, getting their hands dirty with the squid was the most enjoyable part. Sean Ong, eight, from Tao Nan School said that he learnt plenty of facts about marine lives, especially the different parts of a squid. He added proudly: “Now, I know that the squid pen holds the squid upright.” That’s something many probably can’t learn from their usual Sunday tuition classes.

Interested to learn more about MLP’s education programmes? Drop us a mail at mlpeducation@rwsentosa.com.

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