GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They learned about whale blubber, dug in the sand for shark's teeth and carefully held hermit crabs.
A kindergarten class from Harrison County enjoyed a field trip Friday to the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies.
"And all of these little animals you see here in the touch pool, live in the Gulf of Mexico," said the marine science instructor.
Three Rivers Elementary kindergartners enjoyed a hands on encounter with all sorts of sea creatures.
"Let's talk about the crab first. This is what we call a blue crab. Let's talk about the blue crab. How many legs does a blue crab have?" said Shea Eaves, who introduced the wide eyed youngsters to a variety of marine life commonly found in Gulf waters.
"Is this a sting ray?" she asked, "Noooo. This is a horse shoe crab. Can you guys say that? Horse shoe crab."
The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is now taking reservations for student field trips.
The former longtime director of Marine Life is president of the institute and knows plenty about making science lessons fun for children.
"There is no substitute for hands on learning. If you make learning fun, your retention is longest and if you love what you see, you will preserve it. This is the age when we should start making them better stewards of their environment," said Dr. Moby Solangi.
"He feels salty. What else does he feel like?" said Eaves, as students petted a crab.
"Who wants to touch him? I do. Not me. I want to touch it!"
The children are among the first to enjoy a field trip to this new learning facility. That spark of excitement created by making marine science fun is exactly the kind of connection the director is looking for.
"That's exactly what we want to do. There's always one little thing that changes your life. And the sooner we do it, the better," said Dr. Solangi.