Exploration Tank

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
This is a guide for facilitating interaction at a touch tank with marine animals. The instructions are for setting up a display in an informal science center, but could work anywhere. Both initiating and follow-up questions are included for helping learners make observations and speculations about an animal's functions and habitat. General background information is provided about stresses animals experience in a marine environment, including tides, waves, drying out, and substrates to attach to. Specific information to display is provided for five representative organisms: Gumboot Chiton, Rock Crab, Sea Star, Hermit Crab, and Flat Fish.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Exhibit, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Touch tank containing one or more marine animals. (A small number or variety is preferable for learner focus.)
  • Standing tabletop signs or posters with a picture of the organism and its name and maybe a few questions related to that organism.
  • Information cards (5 representative cards in PDF)
  • Hand washing station or facilities nearby.
  • Examples of internal hard parts from the organisms, such as fish bones or chiton plates. *Note: Ideally a Hard Parts artifact cart and books about each organism could be located nearby for further related investigations.
  • Tables: at least one for the organisms, and another table set apart for information about each animal.


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
      • Tides
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Formulating Explanations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, NSF OCE-0731338