Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sea Lions at Manila Ocean Park: What to Expect as a Field Trip

I was privileged to watch Manila Ocean Park's first sea lion show. When I arrived in the area it was already packed with students, chaperons and teachers. As a teacher myself, I was wondering how the students will react watching the sea lions perform tricks and dances. Basically as a SPED teacher, I was wondering if the sea lion show would be able to sustain the student's attention.

When I arrived, there is a group of students having a field trip. They were looking over the viewing area (which is about chest level for me) and below them is the stage for the show. I noticed a couple of boys running around already and not minding the show that much. However, most of the students were just enjoying to watch the sea lions or to take their pictures and videos.

If the students were in preschool and relatively small, they can still watch the sea lions because the wall of the viewing deck is transparent.

When the announcement was made about who threw the water bottle in the pool, I thought did somebody from the audience do that or was that part of the performance? I saw the trainers throw water bottles on the floor and asked the sea lions to pick it up but the one floating in the water I did not see the trainers throw it. When that announcement was made, it seemed the audience became quiet and there were whispers "Sinong nagtapon nun? Nakita mo?" (Who threw that? Did you see what happen?) The trainer asked one of the seals to swim and get the bottle and of course it was done successfully.

Finally, the captivating voice of the announcer informed the audience that the sea lions will perform a dance. Once the music started, the kids who were playing behind me pushed themselves to the viewing area to see the performance. So I guess, kids really want to see these mammals dance. After the dance, attention started to dwindle again. Reminders were provided to practice the three R's (reduce, reuse and recycle). The kids were waving at the sea lions. I guess they were hoping that sea lions will wave back at them and you know what they did! Of course, after a cue and a treat from their trainers. Nonetheless, the kids were thrilled.

So if your school is planning for a field trip, here are some unsolicited advice I could give:
1. Make sure the kids are the ones in front of the viewing area. I know the adults want to take pictures and they are excited as well but let's not stray from the purpose of the field trip which is exposure to these animals that our students don't normally see everyday.
2. Again I cannot ascertain if the water bottle thrown in the pool was part of the performance or not but advise our kids to not throw their trash in the pool even if it was just a candy wrapper.
3. Advisers please keep an eye on your students. I understand they are with their chaperons but still this is a school activity; hence, the adviser/teacher is the person-in-charge in making sure the students get the point of the field trip. Maybe you can enjoy the show more when you visit with your families.
4. For chaperons, please help the advisers. They might be the head of the class but two hands are still better than one.
5. Keep the students in their section or group. Don't let them stray around. Remember this is still a public place. The staff from Manila Ocean Park will be there to assist you but still an ounce of prevention is still better than a pound of cure.

If your students need special attention, here are some pointers:
1. I heard the show can run from 30 and even up to 45 minutes. I was able to watch only 15 minutes of the show. There is a big tendency the students' attention will be lost and there will be issues on asking them to stay standing on the viewing deck for that period. Hence, prepare how will you manage behavior given that period of time.
2. The viewing deck is wide so there is lots of space. Be wary of tendencies to push.
3. The area behind you is a perfect place to play and run around. You can opt to give kids who need to move a break if they are tired of watching the show but like I said once the sea lions dance they might want to go back and watch them.

So far, in my limited time to watch the show those are the most obvious things I observed as a teacher. I have not seen the show wherein the audience are just walk-in visitors so the dynamics may be different. Nonetheless, the show is different and I hope your kids will appreciate sea lions more.

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