Tennessee Aquarium offering virtual visits to ease the boredom of social distancing

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As millions of Americans stay at home during the coronavirus emergency, many people are looking for ways to break the boredom. The Tennessee Aquarium is offering virtual visits, educational materials and behind-the-scenes content while the Aquarium is closed to the public. There are a number of online materials available on the Aquarium's website for parents seeking fun ways to keep children a little happier.

A North American River Otter swims with colored balls at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

A North American River Otter swims with colored balls at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

"We're happy to be able to show people our animals and talk to them through Facebook live events," says Amanda Reeves, one of the Tennessee Aquarium's animal care experts. 'We miss interacting with our guests as much as they miss being able to come here and see the animals up close."

At a time when millions of people find themselves confined to their homes, the monotonous prospect of weeks trapped indoors can be daunting, especially for parents of young children. Fortunately, although its doors are temporarily closed, the Tennessee Aquarium has many resources available so guests can enjoy the wonders of life above and below the surface from the confines of their couch.    

Currently, the Aquarium will remain closed through at least Friday, March 27, but anyone wanting to check in on some of its most energetic, charismatic residents can virtually drop in on them at any time — no invitation required — via the Aquarium's collection of live webcam streams.

These online camera feeds let you observe otters romping and diving in the Appalachian Cove Forest, peep in on the penguins rocketing through the waves in Penguins' Rock and dive into the lively depths of the massive Secret Reef exhibit. All these streams are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at https://www.tnaqua.org/live-cams.

To make these streams even more stimulating, viewers can gamify their experience by counting the number of times sharks swim past the Secret Reef cam or identifying species using a dichotomous key for the Reef or crafting one of their own for Penguins' Rock. Downloadable activity sheets and links to Aquarium video series are available in the handy “Aquarium at Home” landing page.

For those who feel like their world has become a little too small of late, many of the popular productions of MacGillivray Freeman are available via streaming services to bring some giant-screen fun to the biggest screen in the house.

Home-bound viewers can relive the experience of watching many of the studio's celebrated films at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater while sheltering in place, including:

  • America's Musical Journey (via YouTube for free as well as Apple TV and GoUSA TV via Roku)
  • National Park Adventure (via Vimeo on Demand)
  • Dream Big (via Vimeo on Demand)
  • The Living Sea (via Amazon Prime)
  • Humpback Whales (via Vimeo on Demand)

Many of these selections also have accompanying educator guides available to download. These can be accessed at https://www.tnaqua.org/teachers/teacher-resources . These additional resources offer parents (or just extra-curious viewers) a host of engaging activities and pose thought-provoking questions that turn each viewing into a more interactive, educational experience.

While guests cannot visit in person, the Aquarium will continue to actively connect its social followers with the animals they love so dearly via "moment of zen" live feeds of various exhibits, impromptu behind-the-scenes digital tours, on-camera discussions with husbandry experts and a wealth of fun animal facts, videos, and photos.

Fans on Facebook can ensure they receive these reprieves from the sheltering stupor by following the Aquarium and selecting "see first" under the "follow" button.

As a nonprofit organization, this temporary closure period will be especially challenging. Anyone wishing to support the Aquarium’s emergency operations fund can contribute online: https://community.tnaqua.org/donate

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Benson Thom
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