Our family makes many trips to Florida. I am a native Floridian and still have family in the Sunshine State.
Each time we travel to Florida we plan an educational "side trip". This summer I wanted it to be something super special for Anna because we were traveling on her 13th birthday.
Our trip to see Winter the dolphin at The Clearwater Marine Aquarium will go down as the best field trip ever!
Our time at the aquarium was one of the best educational experiences we've ever had. The aquarium caters to EDUCATION, and there are such a variety of activities available. If you want to make a pilgrimage to see Winter, our family highly recommends a visit!
Our day at the aquarium included a general admission pass, Behind the Scenes Tour, Sea Life Safari, and (this is the best part!) a picture with Hope, a dolphin you will meet in Dolphin Tale 2.
Disclaimer: Our day at the aquarium was all expenses paid. I was not compensated in any other form for this post. This post contains affiliate links.
Behind the Scenes at Clearwater Marine Aquarium
In addition to the regular aquarium admission, we were treated to a Behind the Scenes Tour. (This is PERFECT for homeschoolers!)
Our guide, a former teacher, was so wonderful with the kids. We got to go behind the scenes and learn all about the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals - sea turtles in particular.
The kids were given clipboards and taught about every step of sea turtle rescue.
They learned about measuring the turtles, and how to tell the different types of sea turtles apart. Each step of the way the kids had to record their findings (just like the marine biologists would do) and then recommend a course of treatment at the end. (Our turtle needed to have surgery because of a fishing hook stuck in its mouth.)
My husband and I marveled at how HANDS ON and CHILD FOCUSED our experience was.
The turtles are all given names (this particular turtle was Harry Potter!) and we could see all of the information about each of them.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is first and foremost a RESCUE, REHABILITATION, and RELEASE facility. Animals that are kept there long term are only animals that couldn't survive on their own in the wild. We've been to many aquariums around the country, and this aspect of CMA makes it truly unique.
Sea Life Safari
The aquarium sits on a bay, which is a perfect protected area for many species of marine life. (The water used in the aquarium itself also comes directly from the bay - I thought that was neat!)
We went on a boat ride out into the bay - led by two marine biologists. They made stops to drop nets and bring wildlife up to the surface. They would put the creatures into tanks onboard and then they brought them around and talked with us about them.
I loved how the marine biologists were so good with the children on board - letting them take an active part in dropping the net and examining the sea life they found. We chatted with one of our guides and she told us all about how she became a marine biologist and why she liked it so much.
I could see my own children's wheels turning as she spoke. Golden.
Winter & Hope
When we first saw her, Anna leaned over to me and said, "Mom, I can't believe we're really here. That's really HER."
It was interesting to watch the trainers put Winter's tail on her and then perform physical therapy exercises with her. I had thought Winter wore her tail all of the time, but she only wears it at specific times.
For Anna's birthday, we gave her a visit with Hope, who is Winter's companion. She will be featured in the upcoming movie, Dolphin Tale 2 (which comes out in 28 days!). Anna had her picture taken with Hope. Just being on the trainer platform and touching a dolphin was a great experience - it's an experience I am sure she will remember for the rest of her life.
We're so thankful to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for giving Anna a 13th birthday she will remember!
If you're planning a trip to the Tampa area, you MUST pay Winter a visit. It's the perfect educational trip for homeschoolers!
Here are our favorite resources for Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2. My kids are hooked on the books and movie right now!
Have you been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium??
What's the BEST homeschool field trip you've ever taken??