No, I haven’t come into any contact with mobsters out to get me even though “sleeping with the sharks” seems to happen to those that cross mafia dons. Nope, a few weekends ago, Monkey and I participated in a Sleeping with the Sharks Girl Scout overnight activity at Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies along with about 15 other girl scouts and a few other moms.
I have to say that their program is very well run but don’t expect to get any sleep – at least not if you’re an adult. I think the kids slept pretty well by the time they got to sleep (which was about 12:30 am – yes, I said 12:30 AM!) but I did not.
The program started around 8:00 pm Saturday evening with a game in one of their two classrooms (there was another Girl Scout troop in the other class room). It was set up like Jeopardy with the girls divided into two teams. They had to answer different questions about marine life, oceans, water, that sort of thing and the girls did so well! The teams were within 100 points of each other by the end of the game.
At 9:00 was the sea ray show complete with a diver in the tank feeding the sea rays. I tried to take pictures, but the lighting wasn’t great for taking photos.
After the presentation with the diver, everyone ran upstairs to the top of the tank to touch the sea rays. The diver brought the rays over to the edge with food so the kids could reach them.
After that, the girls had a late night snack of pizza and juice. This was about 9:30 or so. Then they went back and did fish printing on t-shirts. There’s an interesting story the aquarium staff member shared about how fish printing began. It has to do with a fisherman in Japan catching large fish but once the fish go to market, no one believes him when he says he caught a fish that was “THIS BIG”. So he took a roll of rice paper on a fishing trip and once he caught the fish, he’d lay it out on the paper and the water, scales and such from the fish would imprint on the paper, thus “proving” that the fish he caught was indeed “THIS BIG”.
After the fish printing (done with a rubber fish, not a real one), the kids went off in pairs for a scavenger hunt that lead them all through the aquarium. The scavenger hunt was designed to get the children looking at and reading about almost all the exhibits they had in the aquarium. It was pretty cool but the girls went so quickly, I really questioned how much they were actually learning.
By the time the hunt was over, it was time to get ready for bed. They set us up on one side of the tunnel (the other group there slept on the other side) and told us “lights out at 12:30”. Yeah, right. It’s what they call “moon lighting” and it’s not completely dark. They still have lights on for the fish. Oh, did I mention we couldn’t have anything electronic in the tunnels with us? I thought this was interesting and the reason is that since the sharks sense electrical currents, they wouldn’t get a restful night if we had our cell phones, cameras, ipods, whatever with us in the tunnel. Even though sharks don’t actually sleep, they do need to rest.
But there was no resting for me. Or any of the other moms, I don’t believe. We heard snoring and the cleaning crew with their vacuums and moving the chairs around. We had lights shining in our eyes. Next time (if there will be a next time), I’ll be bringing one of those sleep masks and some ear plugs.
Wake up was at 7:00 with breakfast and then a “creature feature” where the poor sleep deprived parents and children learned more about sharks and was able to touch a baby one in a tank. Me being the prankster that I can be sometimes wanted to grab Monkey and say “GOTCHA” just as she was touching the shark. It would have made me laugh but I don’t think she would have liked it much. The apprehension, though, of some of the girls touching the shark was pretty obvious. I think I would have made everyone scream. After the end of the Sleeping with the Sharks program, we were given tickets to stay in the aquarium for the rest of the day, but after some time in the gift shop and one more round through the aquarium, we were done.
That was our weekend. While it was not restful, by any stretch, it was a lot of fun. We’ll do it again, only next time, I won’t go. I’ll send Monkey on with the other moms.