Posts Tagged 'heather doggett'

Ocean Literacy Day – Dive Into Reading!


Today is Ocean Literacy Day! In celebration, I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite children’s books that feature oceans and aquatic life!

Reading is not only an integral key to your child’s future success in school, it also presents a great opportunity to bring you and your child closer to the treasures of the ocean, and to each other!

Swimmy by Leo Lionni 


What could be better than an adorable book about cooperation and courage? In this book for younger children (interest level=K-2, grade reading level 3.5). Swimmy teaches that being brave isn’t so tough when you have friends to back you up!

Dutch artist Leo Lionni brings his unique creative style to this Caldecott Honor Book.

A Home for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

A House for Hermit Crab

Just like us, hermit crabs face a lot of change in their lives. This comforting book by the famed children’s book author Eric Carle teaches about the challenge hermit crabs face in looking for a new home  (interest level = K-2, grade reading level 3.5). This story is particularly touching when your child is growing out of their clothes, crib or even moving to a new home.

Although a little tentative about the new shell at first, this little crab gets help from his friends to decorate his shell and turn it into a wonderful new home!

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean

After taking inventory all of the other ocean animals, the giant squid is confident that it’s the biggest animal in the ocean. That is, until he meets the other smaller animals in the (ahem) stomach of a much larger whale. This friendly book (interest level = K-3, grade reading level 2) helps children understand “big and small” and the relationship between predators and prey.

Perfect for preschoolers, this bold and delightful collage art shows that although the big blue squid finds itself swimming inside the whale, he maintains a very positive outlook.

If you have a favorite ocean-related children’s book that you’d like to share, please add it to our list in the comments section below. Happy reading!


Experience the Aquarium Through the Eyes of a Child!


Have you noticed that your child’s curiosity and unique way of asking questions can really keep you on your toes? Fortunately, when my four-year-old son visits during the week, we have all the time in the world to explore the Aquarium, and since nature itself is the best teacher, each visit is unique!

As we stroll around the Aquarium, we are helping our children create deep emotional ties to the marine animals that share our planet. The added long-term benefit is that the more our children are familiar with and connected to nature, the more likely they are to help preserve and care for wildlife later on.

So how do you encourage that connection? Fun games can actually help sharpen your child’s ability to calmly focus their attention so they become more aware of what they’re seeing, hearing, smelling and touching! Give these simple activities a try:

Guessing Games
Play an A-Z game of “I spy.” “I spy something that begins with the letter S.” Think: shark, skink, sea turtle, snake, etc.

Colors of the Rainbow
Recognize and name colors. What colors do you see in the flowers and the trees of Upland Tropical Rain Forest?

Musically Inclined
Adapt a favorite song to include the Aquarium’s animals. “The frogs at the Aquarium go hop, hop, hop” (to the tune The Wheels on the Bus).

Spatial Vocabulary
Point out concepts such as: in, out, under, over, off, on, etc. The alligator is under the water, the tortoise is inside his shell, the sharks are in the Blacktip Reef exhibit.

Big, Small, Tiny, Tall
Talk about the idea of big, small, biggest, smallest, tall, short, etc. Point out the biggest dolphin. Ask, “Is that dolphin bigger or smaller than that one?”

Parents Ask the Darndest Questions
Ask questions that lead to more questions like, “Why do think that scarlet ibis is red?” “Why does the adult zebra shark have spots instead of stripes?”

At Their Eye Level
Notice the small details and critters at knee-height. Stopping to watch the blue-crowned motmot busily flit among the branches from the upper level of Upland Tropical Rain Forest creates a special memory that you two can share!

Experts tell us that young children who have positive experiences in nature with an encouraging adult forge lasting memories and relationships with nature. With these activities and our insider guide to having the best Aquarium experience in your pocket, the next family trip to the Aquarium will be a perfect example of just that!

Is there a fun game you and your kids like to play at the Aquarium or other museums? Tell me about it in the comments section! 


An Ocean-Inspired DIY Project to Celebrate Artscape!


America’s largest free arts festival, Artscape, is happening this weekend in Baltimore! From fine arts and sculpture to music and fashion design, this festival is a true celebration of all forms of artistic expression.

If you’re attending Artscape, be sure to visit the Aquarium’s outreach staff in the Kidscape tent and make your very own turtle magnet out of recycled bottle caps!

If you can’t make it down to the festival this weekend, you can still celebrate the arts at home with this ocean-inspired art project:


  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Scissors/exacto knife
  • Glue stick or clear tape
  • An old magazine


  1. Draw the outline for your sea creature. It works best if you make your aquatic friend big enough so that it can be cut out easily.
  2. Cut out the outline of your animal and decorate it!
  3. Cut out colorful strips of paper from your old magazine.
  4. Cut 4-5 horizontal slits along the animal’s body.
  5. Thread the magazine strips through the slits in the animal’s body (over-under for the first strip, under-over for the one next to it, and so on, or however you’d like). It helps keep the magazine paper in place if you glue or tape the end down before you start to weave.
  6. Weave as many strips of magazine paper as you’d like, and enjoy your new piece of ocean art!

Have a favorite recycled/ocean-inspired art project? Share it with me in the comments section! 


Thoughtful Thursdays: Get Out & Explore Nature!


This Summer,  National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There initiative is encouraging families to get outdoors and explore the natural beauty around them!

We all know spending time outside is a lot of fun but did you know it is also great for our bodies and brain development? Since the average 9 – 13 year old child only plays outside 6 percent of their week, it’s even more important than ever to spend time in nature. The benefits are wide-reaching and well documented: playing in nature decreases stress levels, increases creativity, increases focus in school and improves eyesight.

Wow! If the s’mores weren’t motivation enough, those are great reasons to campout with the family this weekend!

When you do camp and explore the outdoors, there are a few simple environmental manners to keep in mind. I find these 7 principles from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics particularly helpful:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
 – Whether it’s your neighborhood trails or a National Park, it’s always best to know the rules when it comes to food, camping equipment, etc.
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces 
- When choosing a place to set-up camp or the day’s rest area, keep it to the established trails/site areas. Not only is it in the best interest of your safety, but it ensures that we don’t further disrupt the natural environment you’re enjoying!
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
 – When you’re ready to leave, ensure that all your products, waste and litter leave with you!
  4. Leave What You Find 
- Avoid taking natural objects and organisms with you. The transport of non-native species and cultural/historic artifacts from their natural habitat can have a lasting, negative impact.
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
 – Where campfires are permitted, take the precautionary measures to ensure that fires remain small and controlled.
  6. Respect Wildlife – One of the greatest parts of getting outside is being able to experience an abundance of wildlife (sometimes even in your own backyard)! As exciting as those experiences are, it’s important to remember that animals need to be observed from a distance and that feeding animals can be extremely harmful to their health!
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors – Let’s make sure that the families coming after us also have a great experience! By following the above principles, we can all ensure that these natural areas can continue to be enjoyed for years to come!

Planning on getting outside and exploring your natural surroundings this weekend? Share your plans/ideas in the comments section! 


Thoughtful Thursdays: Celebrate the 4th of July by Showing Your Red, White, Blue and…Green!


Whether it’s the heart-racing explosion of fireworks or sharing good food with good friends on the beach, the 4th of July is a great time to have fun with family and friends!

Here are some helpful hints to make your Independence Day celebration eco-friendly: 

Friendlier Fireworks

Although they look spectacular, fireworks spew a “who’s who” of nasty chemicals. From gunpowder, to toxic pollutants and heavy metals, the debris that rains down from exploded fireworks contains lead, barium, cadmium, lithium, potassium nitrate and occasionally arsenic.

To help improve air quality for your family and still enjoy the festivities, avoid setting off your own personal displays, and check out your local area’s show. Some communities are now choosing green alternatives to toxic propellants (like compressed air). You may even want to encourage your local firework show to consider using these more environmentally friendly fireworks methods!

Skip the Sparkle

Adopting a new tradition around the 4th of July may be just what you’re looking for. A greener option to sparklers is for kids to make their own colorful confetti out of recycled paper and then throw it with wild abandon! This is also a safer option for little fingers as the pretty spark that sparklers create burns at over 1800 degrees F which can melt metal or glass – ouch!

Beach Etiquette

As excited as we may be to run straight into the crashing waves when we reach the beach, it is wise to use the wooden boardwalks that lead out to the sand. These walkovers are important to maintain the fragile dunes that are safe havens for specialized plants and animals. These valuable dunes also help protect waterfront properties from high waves.

Classic picnics are just right for a 4th of July beach day. To leave the beach as beautiful as it was when you found it, pack everything in (and out) in a handy basket or backpack and bring metal cutlery, sturdy plastic plates and cups from home. We all have the know-how to prevent the large amount of paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons that end up in the trash each year (enough to circle the equator 300 times).

Sharing the sand with our animal ocean neighbors is simple by giving them personal space and not approaching or touching them.

Any trash you see should find its way into a trashcan or recycling container (even if you need to carry it a while until you can find a trashcan).

Whether it’s new, innovative firework technologies or an old fashioned family picnic, many of the choices we make around Independence Day can make a difference to ocean health. Together, even small choices like these will make a big impact!

Happy Fourth of July!


Thoughtful Thursdays: Be A Mean, Green Grilling Machine This Father’s Day!

national aquarium families expert

In appreciation of all that our dads and other special role models do, join the National Aquarium this Father’s Day by celebrating together and “greening the grill”! Father’s Day is a great way to spend quality time with the family outdoors, whether it’s grilling by the pool, taking a hike or exploring a local shore!

If you have grilling or barbecuing plans for this Father’s Day, check out these three ways to make your grill healthier for your family (and the planet):

  1. Gas or Charcoal?
    We all love that smoky, outdoorsy flavor we get from charcoal, but did you know that charcoal smoke contains three times the level of carbon dioxide compared to gas grills? In addition, the high levels of carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by charcoal contribute to smog. Charcoal (both lump and briquettes) also take a great deal of energy to produce. Plus, the only place to put the chemically treated charcoal ashes is the trash can. At least with propane or natural gas, you can recycle and refill the containers over and over.
  2. Sun and Done
    Making your own solar-powered oven is the ultimate green choice because even natural gas and propane require less-than-ideal processes to extract or produce the fuel. Solar ovens can reach over 250 degrees, allowing you to cook almost anything, including meats, vegetables, baked beans and chili.If you’re looking for a great do-it-yourself project for the family this Father’s Day, try your hand at making a solar oven. All you need is a few supplies, less than $50 and a plan. The folks at Solar Cookers International can help you get started!
  3. Local Eats
    Did you know the average fresh food item travels 1,500 miles to get to your grill? That’s a lot of fuel used for transportation, processing, packaging and refrigeration. Getting your grillin’ groceries at a farmer’s market, summer roadside stand or store with local food tastes fresher, supports the local economy and uses far less energy. To locate your nearest farmer’s market or locally sourced grocery store, click here.

Got plans to go out and enjoy nature with Dad this weekend? Share them with me in the comments section! 


DIY Craft: Braided Bracelets from Recycled Shirts


On Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9, we will be celebrating World Oceans Day at both our Washington, D.C. and Baltimore locations.

At the World Oceans Day celebration, braided bracelets will be offered to take home as souvenirs. The bracelets were created by staff from old uniform shirts! In case you can’t make it to World Oceans Day, or simply want to make more bracelets at home, you can follow a few simple steps that will turn old t-shirts into new accessories!

Here’s how you can make your own bracelet using fabric from an old t-shirt:

Materials needed:

  • An old t-shirt (or any other stretchy fabric you like)
  • Scissors
  • Tape


  1. Cut three strips of equal width from the bottom of your t-shirt or other choice of fabric. Two of the strips should be about 12 inches long, and the third should be about 14 inches.
  2. Gather the three strips together and tie them at the top with a knot. Tie them so that the only piece sticking out of the top is the longer strip. Tape the fabric above the knot to a flat surface.
    diy braided bracelet craft
  3. Start braiding as you would braid hair. Stop braiding when the length of your braid fits comfortably around your wrist.
  4. Tie another knot at the bottom of the bracelet.
  5. Cut off the excess length from the two shorter strips, leaving only the longest strip sticking out of the knot.
    diy braided bracelet craft
  6. Tie the two ends of the bracelet together around your wrist and admire your finished bracelet!
    diy braided bracelet

Don’t forget to join us this weekend for ocean-related crafts and activities! 


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