Encouraging Thoughtful Choices

I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium a few weekends ago. There were many things I enjoyed about the aquarium, including that many of the exhibits look like art installations.

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Learning-wise, one of my favorite parts was how they wove the impact of their visitors’ choices into the exhibits.

At one exhibit, I placed an order for a seafood dish at a pretend restaurant. The chef, hostess, and waiter (on video screens) conversed with each other about the impact of my choice on the environment and instilled me with an appropriate amount of guilt based on my decision. (Want to upset the chef? Order shark fin soup.)

These same sort of experiences were woven into other exhibits throughout the aquarium as well. See this seahorse? What sort of shrimp do you think HE wants you to order?


Apparently, seahorses often get caught in shrimp nets, making net caught shrimp the worst choice for our seahorse. However, at other exhibits I learned that farmed shrimp, especially imported, can be hard on the environment because they pollute and destroy local habitats. The best choice for the seahorse and the environment according the the seahorse and the aquarium? Box trapped shrimp.

A visitor might remember to avoid net trapped shrimp and shark fin soup, but how does one know the best way to wade through the many other seafood options? The aquarium offers a wallet card and phone app with guidelines on which seafood is least impactful on the environment.

As a learning geek, I really loved this blend of offering choices, showing real-world impact, and giving longterm performance support (in this case, ordering support.) And the fish were pretty cool too.

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