Posts Tagged 'heather doggett'

Celebrate Spring by Taking a Walk on the Wet Side!

national aquarium families expert update

As we enter “Earth Month,” let’s take some time to celebrate the one thing that all living things need – water! Now that Spring is (finally) in the air, animals that depend on the water are all around us and it’s a great time to get outside as a family to explore.

Before Your Hike

A water-themed family hike can connect children with the importance and beauty of water and remind us all that water is a shared resource, one that deserves our protection! Here are a few things to consider before hitting the trail:

  • Scope It Out – Learning about nature is about making careful observations. Scientists use spotting scopes or binoculars but children are right at home using two toilet paper tubes taped together to peer through. Children can practice spotting animals and natural objects by looking at items up close through the tube and then moving back and looking at it again. To focus their attention, ask questions like, Does it look the same? What do you think it feels like? What color is it?
  • Meet The Neighbors – Review common animals that might be found in your area and have your children guess what animals they expect to find on the hike. Free field guides and/or lists of local animals are available through your local Department of Natural Resources or library.
  • Mind Your Manners – Walk only on existing trails when near the water to help reduce erosion. Practice the 7 “Leave No Trace” principles.

During Your Hike

Experience a familiar park or hike in a new way by directing your gaze and questions around water: what kinds of animals live in water? Who spends time near the water and who lays eggs in water? Here are a few ideas to keep the conversation flowing:

  • Look in wet, muddy or moist areas, especially near puddles and stream banks. Along with bigger tracks, try to find smaller bird tracks. Look for tracks as they are easier to find and photograph well! You can encounter tracks from animals like: great blue herons, great egrets, deer and raccoons.
  • One of the easiest ways to see frog eggs is to listen for frog calls and look for temporary, shallow ponds. The eggs may be floating in shallow water or attached to sticks and plants underwater. As tempting as it may be to touch, only look and take pictures.

 After Your Hike

Once you’re home, find a large piece of cardboard or butcher paper and have the whole family participate in drawing a mural that includes all of the animals you found on your trek. As you’re drawing, ask questions like, Where do you think the water we saw came from? Where do you think it goes? Do you think we could help keep the water clean and healthy for the animals (and us)? What ideas do you have?

As the Spring weeks pass and you continue to explore the outdoors you can begin to compare and contrast your murals, giving you and your junior trekkers an idea of how diverse the habitat in our own backyards can be and how we can protect them!

national aquarium families expert heather doggett

A Fun, Green Way to Embrace the Holiday Season!


Are your friends and family taking part in the holiday spirit by doing random acts of kindness this time of year? I’ve seen loads of wonderful, heart-warming ideas floating around online that encourage us to do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return.

I wonder if we might take a slightly different take on this great trend. Random acts of “green-ness” help not only our neighbors, but also the oceans and the planet.

Here are a few ideas that will hopefully inspire your family to get in on this giving time of year:

  • Carry two bags along on your next walk outside. Picking up recyclable items and litter on the sidewalk or in the park is one way to ensure that those items don’t end up in our storm drains and later in the ocean.
  • Give neighbors, mail carriers, hairdressers a reusable water bottle (or coffee mug) as a thank you for all they do.
  • Surprise fellow shoppers by buying a couple extra re-usable bags and offering them to people in line at the cash register.
  • !rite a thank you letter (with kiddo art!) to a local environmental group or advocate who is working hard to help oceans and the world’s aquatic treasures.
  • Thank a stranger in the grocery store for bringing their re-usable bag in instead of using the plastic one.

If you witness an act of green-ness or have ideas that you’d like to share, share them in the comments section! We’d love to hear from you!


Create New Family Traditions This Holiday Season!


Winter – just hearing that word makes us reach for a warm mug of hot cocoa and dig out our scarves and wool mittens!

Spending time in nature with your child during this chilly time is a surprisingly fun way to defeat the winter doldrums. So, this holiday season, create a new family tradition by bundling up in layers and venturing out together to discover the quiet wonders of winter.

With your help, your child will notice the little changes that winter brings:

  • Staying Warm: As you zip up your coat and throw on a scarf, point out the change in temperature and how it’s colder now. Ask if your child can see their breath! Around your neighborhood, you’ll see that many of the animals grow a thicker coat in the winter (squirrels and raccoons) to stay warm. Point out the local birds that “puff up” their feathers to trap warm air close to their bodies like a built-in jacket.
  • Super Sleuth: Winter walks are a great time to play “I Spy”. Now that trees and plants have dropped their leaves, it’s much easier to find bird nests, animal burrows or woodpecker nest cavities.
  • Birds on the Move: Point out any local birds you see and ask your child if they are the same birds that they saw this summer. Odds are, some of your favorites may have migrated to warmer weather for the winter and new species may have come from up north.
  • A Flashlight Safari: Now that darkness comes earlier this time of year, there is a unique chance to experience your neighborhood in a new way. Join your child on a flashlight tour of your backyard or neighborhood. Listen carefully for new sounds, discover interesting insects that gather near porch lights and watch for little eyes shining back at you!
  • DIY Decor: Many trees in our neighborhoods have dropped their leaves and your child may notice that they look different. At home, collect fallen leaves, pods or seeds and incorporate these into your holiday decorating!

Want to learn more about family holiday traditions from around the world? Join us for our Cultural Series celebration tonight!


Week of Thanks: Heather Doggett on Our Visitors!

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, our experts (and animal residents) will be sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Our second “Week of Thanks” post comes from the Aquarium’s Director of Visitor Programs, Heather Doggett

I am most thankful for the hundreds of thousands of children and families that visit the National Aquarium each year. This gratefulness stems from seeing families appreciate and connect with marine animals in our exhibits and then hearing how communities are banding together to bring about changes to our environment that would have been impossible to impact alone.

national aquarium education

For me, it may be as simple as seeing a family carefully recycling and composting in our Harbor Market Kitchen or simple talking with a fellow mom about the little choices we each make to better our planet for our kids and our ocean!

I am always surprised and delighted to see how families show their love of nature in many surprising ways. I’m not alone though, here’s what the other members of our team are thankful for:

“I am thankful that I am able to witness guest’s reactions to seeing new animals and hearing new facts. I feel like just by being there to witness someone watching a blacktip reef shark glide by for the first time, I am able to share in their excitement.”

 – Megan Moore, Visitor Programs Manager

“I am thankful for our guests for so many reasons! Watching the families bond together over the beauty of the aquatic world is definitely one of my favorite things! The smile on a child’s face because they are in awe of the animals we have here at our facility puts a smile on my face! We hopefully are making memories for children and their families that last a lifetime and inspire them to participate in conservation actions to help the animals they love so much. Hopefully we are fostering an appreciation for the aquatic world that the whole family can be a part of!”

– Maria Madero, Education Specialist

What are YOU thankful for this year? Tell us in the comments section!

Party With a Purpose This Holiday Season!

national aquarium family expert update

Today is America Recycles Day, a national holiday aimed at encouraging friends, families and communities to increase their recycling efforts!

As the holiday season gets underway, take this quick quiz to learn how your family can make your upcoming celebrations more recycle-friendly:

National Aquarium America Recycles Day

How are YOU celebrating America Recycles Day? Tell me in the comments section! 


A Blue View: Talking to Kids about the Environment

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

November 15, 2013: Talking to Kids about the Environment

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Heather discuss
the importance of effectively communicating
environmental issues to kids. 

Kids are curious, and want to soak up all the knowledge they can about our natural world. (Did you know? More than one third of the average first words for babies are names of animals!)

Yet, the approach one needs to take in order to effectively communicate about the environment is very different depending on the age. To avoid an overwhelming fear of large ecological problems such as oil spills or rain forest destruction – also known as “ecophobia” – parents and educators should first teach kids all there is to love about the environment and its many animal inhabitants.

Click here to listen to Heather describe how establishing an early love of the natural world can make a lasting impact in YOUR kid’s life! 


Come in First With These Last-Minute Halloween Tips!

national aquarium family expert update

It’s just days before one of my all-time favorite holidays, Halloween!

Still not sure what your costume is, how to decorate your place or how you’re going to drag home all that candy? Not to worry. Before you hit the big Halloween stores (and crowds), you may want to consider some of these less expensive, eco-friendly options:

  • Thrift Store Treasures – Avoid the plastics, vinyl (PVC) and even lead that can be found in store-bought Halloween costumes by searching the racks of your nearby thrift store or closet. When I asked my 4-year-old what he liked about making his own costume he replied, “Because if I had a store costume, it would be just regular. If I made my own, it would be crazy and silly!” Hard to argue with that!
  • Re-Use and Re-Imagine – Scouring through your recycling bin may lead to some truly creative costume ideas. Re-used cardboard boxes could become a fire truck or train (held up by suspenders),  a robot, popcorn box, or hot air balloon basket. Plastic milk jugs might be transformed into fairy wings, a princess tiara, turtle shell or even a Frankenstein forehead!

    DIY mantis shrimp costume

    For those of you who like a challenge, check out this peacock mantis shrimp costume one of our educators made from recycled & thrifty materials!

  • Ditch the Disposables – Hosting a spooktacular Halloween party? Deck out your house in these fun and easy DIY decorations! When it comes time for trick-or-treating, forgo purchasing those plastic pumpkins and carry your candy in a pillowcase/reusable grocery bag!
  • Don’t Fill the Landfill – When all the parties have passed and your belly is full of candy, hold on to that costume and don’t toss it out with the trash. Next year, you could be the hero of your neighborhood by hosting a “costume swap” where everyone brings their old costumes and trades for a new one.

Hope everyone has a safe, planet-friendly (and most importantly FUN!) Halloween! 


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