Sleeping with the Sharks

To top off a school year filled with adventure, excitement and challenge, Year 2 pupils embarked upon an incredible opportunity to ‘sleep with the sharks’ at Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium.

Following a joyous minibus journey up the A30 and across the Tamar Bridge, we arrived at the aquarium, which is located on the beautiful and historic Sutton harbour. Here, we were greeted with a warm welcome by the National Marine Aquarium staff.

The next stop on Year 2’s marine voyage was an ‘Inventafish’ workshop, in which pupils explored some fascinating ocean artefacts (including the jaw of a tiger shark, a giant turtle shell and a sawfish rostrum!) and learned about the adaptive features of a host of sea creatures. We discovered that both the turtle’s protective shell and the humpback whale’s baleen (the comb-like filter-feeding system) are made from keratin – the same stuff that our fingernails and hair are made of!

 

  

The pupils were then tasked to ‘inventafish’, using their creative imagination and prior knowledge of ocean animals to design, draw and write about a fictitious sea creature. We had venomous deep-sea creatures with octopus legs, petrifying bioluminescent lures and 30 foot-tall sea monsters that live by the light of the moon!

   

Following the workshop, we were treated to dinner in the aquarium’s Waves Café, which boasts a panoramic view of Sutton Harbour. The café with filled with excitement and glee and the pupils enjoyed their dinner and watched as the fishing ships pulled into the harbour.

 

After dinner, we were walked down to the Eddystone Reef Exhibit. This is the largest single viewing panel in the UK, but it’s also home to a stunning array of local sharks, rays and many more amazing ocean animals… It would also be our bedroom for the night!

We were incredibly lucky to be guided on a twilight tour of the aquarium – a fascinating chance to see what the fish get up to at night! The expertly knowledged and entertaining aquarium staff led a series of workshops and activities: we went on a treasure hunt for coral fish, learned about the complex biology of coral and met Cooper, the resident humphead wrasse, whose species can grow almost the size of a small car in the wild!

 

With beds made and pyjamas on, the children were treated to an ice cream while they watched Finding Dory on a big screen in front of the Eddystone Reef tank. We were then lulled to sleep under the moonlight tank, accompanied by the relaxing sound of water circling through the tanks.

After an early rise, we packed our bags and headed back up to the Waves Café for a buffet breakfast of toast and cereal. Before leaving, the pupils enjoyed a scour of the gift shop, buying a range of thoughtful gifts for themselves and others, which I’m sure will be cherished as fond memories of a wonderful aquarium adventure!

What an incredible experience and a huge effort from pupils, parents and staff alike to make it happen. A massive thank you to the National Marine Aquarium for hosting an unforgettable sleepover!

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