7 Places Where NYC Kids Can Learn Marine Biology
Ever since my daughter found a group of moon jellyfish (a.k.a. a smack) at the beach last summer, she’s been fascinated by sea life and oceanography. With the push to get more children involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and concern about our planet’s sustainability at an all-time high, I am happy to encourage her latest passion.
It turns out the beach isn't the only place to get your feet wet with the wonders of marine biology. We've rounded up seven places in NYC where kids can learn about and explore sea life.
New York Aquarium – Coney Island
602 Surf Avenue at West 8th Street
In advance: $10.75; at the door: $11.95 for ages 3 and up
Although still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, the Brooklyn aquarium is a great place to see marine marvels. Don’t miss the penguin, otter and walrus feedings, or the daily sea lion shows at the Aquatheater. Visitors can also get a close-up look at life in a reef at Conservation Hall's Glover's Reef display, complete with an array of colorful fish. If you're looking for a richer experience, the aquarium also offers summer camps for preschoolers through teens.
American Museum of Natural History – Upper West Side
Central Park West at 79th Street
Suggested admission: $22 for adults, $12.50 for children ages 2-12 with extra fees for special exhibits
The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life features more than 750 sea creatures ranging from tiny algae to glowing jellyfish. The centerpiece is the massive blue whale model, weighing in at 21,000 pounds and measuring 94 feet in length. My daughter, however, prefers the interactive computers just outside the hall to the stuffed dioramas inside of it. She also really enjoyed the recently opened Life at the Limits exhibit, featuring creatures that thrive in extreme surroundings, with a heavy emphasis on deep sea life.
Hudson River Park – Manhattan
59th to Harrison Streets along the Hudson River
This 550-acre riverside park hosts tons of school programs dedicated to marine science, ranging from fish biology to water quality and plankton ecology. The green space also offers a slew of related summer camps for children ages 5 through 16. Kids ages 3 to 9 can enjoy the FREE River Rangers program where they can learn about the environment through science experiments and nature-themed crafts.
Salt Marsh Nature Center – Marine Park
3301 Avenue U at East 33rd Street
Protected as a Forever Wild Preserve, the Nature Center is home to over 500 acres of grassland and salt marsh, as well as an array of birds and native flora. In addition to being a bird and butterfly-watcher's paradise, it is home to 100 species of finfish. Urban Park Rangers lead Natural Classroom lessons, using plants and animals of the salt marsh to teach students about ecology and botany. Families can also participate in monthly activities, like exploring the waters of Gerritsen Creek.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge – Queens
Broad Channel and Cross Bay Boulevard
For most of the year, Jamaica Bay is known for its hiking and birds. However, in May and June, budding oceanographers get a chance to witness the natural phenomenon that is horseshoe crab mating season. Kids can also enjoy ranger-led hikes and bird-watching sessions at this wildlife refuge, the only one in the National Park System.
SciTech Kids – Upper East Side
NY Junior League
130 East 80th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues
$760 per week of camp
The science experts here help kids learn through hands-on activities and experiments. This year's summer camp program has a week dedicated to marine biology and oceanography. Children ages 4 to 8 can identify the different species in water samples from Central Park, and build a remotely-operated vehicle for deeper-water exploration.
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School – Governors Island
550 Short Avenue
If your child’s interest runs deeper than a day trip to the aquarium or week-long summer camp, she can take things to the next level by attending NYC's only public high school dedicated to the subject. At the Harbor School (which requires a ferry ride to get to), students can study everything from aquaculture to boat building to marine technology, leading to certification. There’s no gym, but scuba diving is on the schedule!
Of course, if you just want to play with jellyfish, come to Brighton Beach where you'll be able to do that and more.