Technology Lends a Helping Fin for Children at the South Carolina Aquarium

09/01/2014
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

Educators preach, “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning,” and as modern society steadily marches into the Digital Age, the change of pace leaves many uncertain of what is in store for the future of formal education. The power of curiosity shapes learning, and the advancement of modern technology sparks this curiosity, particularly in youth. Children are driven by their innate inquisitiveness, and as upcoming generations continue to become more tech-savvy, technology holds opportunities to turn everyday experiences into learning opportunities.

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Aquariums are in a unique position to educate and enlighten the public on many real-world issues, ranging from conservation and environmental science to biodiversity. The South Carolina Aquarium approaches these topics in simple, fun and engaging ways that utilize the kinship between technology and education. The aquarium embraces technology to enhance the overall guest experience and to immerse children in an environment where they can understand and appreciate the natural world. With more than 6,000 animals to visit, a trip to the aquarium is already a wild and entertaining experience for children, so how does the aquarium’s technology enrich this experience?

The overall experience at the aquarium is immersive. Each exhibit delivers the feeling of being present in a different ecosystem — whether it takes guests to the deep sea, the lush Carolina mountains or the exotic land of Madagascar. Senses come alive as audio overhead plays sounds of the exhibit’s environment, while visuals and video provide additional learning material. Tactile activities like interactive buttons, lift flaps, true/false games and passport stations feed into children’s curiosity and lead them to cues and answers. These technologies are designed to provide learning in a non-evaluative environment, enabling discovery in a relaxed, fun setting.

Touchscreen devices are effectively used for species identification, exhibit information, playing interactive games and viewing upcoming Aquarium events. Touchscreens have become popular as an accessible tool for all ages and provide a subjective learning experience for children. By enabling the use of touchscreens, behind-the-scenes videos and interactive games, the aquarium gives children the enthusiasm to learn and embark on self-guided interpretation.

One of the aquarium’s most remarkable exhibits, the Animal Care Lab, provides a real look into specialized veterinarian care while engaging the public with interactive technologies. Guests can get hands-on with the laboratory and medical equipment, view virtual tours and informational videos, and even perform a mock surgery on a fish. Children are fascinated by these technologies that have advanced our medical and science fields in ways that were once unimaginable.

Another tech-driven hotspot, located in the Ocean exhibit, focuses on the Sea Turtle Hospital. It showcases videos of turtles in their natural habitats as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the Hospital. Educational displays also engage children in sea turtle facts focusing on health, nourishment and conservation, which promote marine protection awareness and social responsibility to children at an early age.

By incorporating innovative technologies around the facility,the South Carolina Aquarium sparks curiosity in visiting students, who ultimately walk away with a greater appreciation for wildlife and wild places. Be sure to visit the South Carolina Aquarium during your next trip to Charleston and enjoy the interactive technologies offered.

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