Learning center

The Maritime Aquarium unveils a new learning center for toddlers

NORWALK, CT – The Sea Aquarium unveiled its new Sea & Discover Zone, a STEM-focused learning center for toddlers and preschoolers, during a ribbon cutting event Wednesday morning .

As he welcomed guests including Mayor Harry Rilling, Majority Leader State Senator Bob Duff and Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools Alexandra Estrella to the new space, Maritime Aquarium CEO Jason Patlis said noted the long journey of the learning center to its completion.

“It’s really, really exciting, because it’s two years of preparation,” Patlis said. “It’s a long time.”

Located on the second floor of the aquarium, near the meerkats exhibit, the Sea & Discover area was designed in accordance with the state’s early learning and development standards.

According to the aquarium, the learning center offers preschoolers and toddlers the opportunity to explore the aquatic world through books, artifacts, live animals, dramatic games and simple science tools. .

“This space in particular is dedicated to our younger guests,” Patlis said, “our toddlers and preschoolers. Before that, we really didn’t have any space dedicated to that age demographic, and you can see the kids really enjoying the space now.”

Rilling congratulated everyone involved in designing and opening up the space, and said he was honored to have the Sea Aquarium located in Norwalk.

“When you bring in young people,” Rilling said, “and give them an experiential learning opportunity, which is the easiest way or the fastest way to learn and appreciate our sound, our beaches [and] where we’re located, they’re probably going to come here for 30 or 40 years because they’re going to have a great time.”

Patlies noted the attention to detail in the design of this new educational space, which includes tanks with live animals along the wall that children can see from inside. Even the rug subtly represents, through the colors, a journey from the beach to the deep ocean.

“This space isn’t just for entertaining kids,” Patlis said. “He teaches them the heart and soul of what we do here at the aquarium. He teaches them about animals and critters, but also how to take care of animals and critters.”

The center is made up of three distinct areas: a beach area with books and cozy reading nooks under a colorful mural, an ocean area with play items and a fake coral reef, and a science lab with tools for examine shells, feathers, fur and other items.

Duff said the center is both a space where children can learn without even realizing it and a place that can help them become good stewards of the environment.

“So the next time they go to the beach,” Duff said, “the next time they see trash or the next time they see maybe a fish or some kind of aquatic life, they may think of what they’ve learned here at the Maritime Aquarium, and it may inspire them to be great stewards of the environment because of what they’ve learned here at the aquarium.”

Jonathan Gibson, director of Maritime Odyssey Preschool in South Norwalk, thanked the aquarium for creating an innovative and imaginative play space for toddlers and preschoolers.

The aquarium is a partner of the Odyssey Preschool and hosted one of the schools’ classes in the Sea & Discover area on Wednesday, where they participated in a story hour activity to celebrate National Reading Day across the ‘America.

“We are so proud to have helped inspire the aquarium to build this play space,” Gibson said. “While I am amazed by this play space, I am not surprised, as we know the aquarium is a world-class learning institution and an emerging leader in early childhood education and a partner of the Odyssey.”

Estrella took a moment to celebrate the close relationship between Norwalk Public Schools and the Aquarium’s education department.

“Today opens the door to another opportunity for our students to immerse themselves in great learning,” Estrella said, “and take the learning experience from the classroom to the real world and see how science applies to everything we do in life. The Aquarium is not a better place to continue to improve these experiences.”

According to the aquarium, the learning center will also host “Fish Tales,” a free and interactive story time for toddlers, led by an aquarium early childhood educator, which includes songs, nursery rhymes , dancing and even live animal visits every Friday. at 10:30 a.m., Fish Tales is also free with admission.