Ever wanted to touch a jellyfish? Yes, on purpose.

You’re going to get your chance, Baltimore. The National Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Living Seashore, opens this May — and it’s all about getting up close and personal with everything you’ll encounter on a beach. Jellies included.

{Did you know those moon jellies you see on the shore — and probably run from — don’t sting? Me, either!!}

I had an opportunity to tour the exhibit (construction and all!) last week with Jack Cover, general curator, and Kate Rowe, the aquarium’s media relations manager. Which means you get a sneak peek!

Museum staffers are over-the-moon about this latest attraction, especially the design. It represents the aquarium’s fresh look at telling the ocean’s story — and what a story it is. Your summer beach trip will never look the same again. Or your aquarium visit, for that matter.

sneak peek! living seashore at the national aquarium - (cool) progeny #baltimore #baltimorekids #coolprogeny #nationalaquarium

Unlike traditional aquarium exhibits, Living Seashore is designed to be open, bright, and highly interactive. The first thing you’ll notice is the educator behind the touchpools. A cut-out design allows them to be right next to museum goers. No microphones. No stages. You’re one-on-one.

“We want to create conversations,” said Jack. Part of that is making sure there is no great physical distance between the animals, educators, and guests.

From the Jellyfish touch pool too a large exhibit touch pool featuring skates, horseshoe crabs and stingrays, to the ‘slice of beach’ discovery wall, the exhibit is highly immersive, engaging and promotes exploration. It’s high-tech, too, featuring a digital multi-touch table that allows you to uncover different objects that wash-up at the shore.

I see that being a huge hit with my kids.

sneak peek! living seashore at the national aquarium - (cool) progeny #baltimore #baltimorekids #coolprogeny #nationalaquarium

“We want people to understand the ecosystems at the shore,” said Kate, “and then become protectors.”

“Shore Heroes” is a hallmark of the new Living Seashore program — which promotes how individuals can become seashore stewards. Throughout the exhibit, you’ll come in contact with stories about how ‘regular’ people are helping to protect this natural resource. Before leaving, you can take a pledge to protect coastal habitats and animals. Don’t worry; the aquarium will tell you how! They’ll stay connected with you via social platforms after you leave to help you put that pledge into action.

The exhibit is set to open in May, although no firm date has been set. That’s mostly due to how they need to introduce the more than 200 species to their new home. It can often be an unpredictable iterative process, requiring a sophisticated life support system that mimics the complexities of a natural ocean ecosystem.

“We want there to be non-stop talk in the car on the way home,” said Kate. “We want to be a part of the dinner conversation that night. We want everyone to see and learn something different.”

If your kids are anything like mine, the car ride after seeing Living Seashore should be cacophonous.

The cool kind. Not the ‘kid learning the recorder’ kind.

 

(cool) tip: Want to see Living Seashore before it opens to the public? The National Aquarium is offering sneak peeks as part of their immersive Insider’s and Daily-Behind-the-Scenes tours beginning February 28th.