CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – There is a growing body of research that suggests visiting an aquarium and watching schools of fish has the soothing health benefits of reducing heart rates and significantly lowering blood pressure.
Even though many people feel relaxed and at ease while exploring the galleries of the Tennessee Aquarium, others might be overwhelmed or experience anxiousness at times.
To that end, the Tennessee Aquarium partnered with KultureCity, a nationally-recognized non-profit that works with visitor-serving organizations to revolutionize and bring about change in the community for individuals with sensory needs. KultureCity toured the Aquarium to identify “Headphone Zones” and “Quiet Zones” that could serve as oases of calm for guests in need of a quieter, less-stimulating environment.
As part of the certification process, KultureCity provided staff training. Leading medical professionals shared best practices for recognizing individuals with sensory needs and how best to assist over-stimulated visitors. Other Aquarium staff and volunteers are able to take sensory inclusion training through online modules.
Sensory bags, equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, verbal cue cards and weighted lap pads are now available for visitors who may feel overwhelmed by their surroundings. These kits are available for check-out at the Tennessee Aquarium, Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater and Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.
A Sensory Inclusive Certification kickoff event is planned for Saturday, Sept. 15. As part of this event, the Aquarium is partnering with WTCI-TV, Creative Discovery Museum, and the Chattanooga Autism Center to offer special programs at the Aquarium and the IMAX theater.
- 10:30 a.m. —Families can meet live sea creatures in the IMAX Great Hall.
- 11 a.m. – A special sensory-friendly screening of PBS Kids’ “Splash and Bubbles” at IMAX. This animated film takes kids on an underwater adventure led by Splash, Bubbles and their best friends Dunk, Ripple and others. With lots of play, comedy and music, these Reeftown Rangers go on epic adventures to discover marine biology and oceanography. Note: This 2D presentation will be shown with some house lights on and lower audio levels than normal film screenings. This sensory screening is being offered free, but guests must register online.
After the screening, guests can tour the aquarium to enjoy the following programs with their admission. No registration required:
• 1:30 p.m. – “Fit to Survive” in River Journey
• 2 p.m. – “Octopus Enrichment in Ocean Journey
• 3 p.m. – “Critter Closeup” in River Journey
• 4 p.m. – “The Tooth About Sharks” in Ocean Journey
Based in Birmingham, Alabama, KultureCity is a leading non-profit recognized nationwide for their Sensory Inclusive Certification program. They have certified 16 NBA arenas, five NFL stadiums, five NHL arenas and many zoos, aquariums and science centers across the nation.
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About The Tennessee Aquarium
The mission of the Tennessee Aquarium is to connect people with nature and inspire them to make informed decisions about water and wildlife. Admission is $29.95 per adult and $18.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $11.95 per adult and $9.95 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $37.95 for adults and $26.95 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.