Aquarium guests of all ages enjoy meeting native creatures such as this opossum during special programs like the Backyard Scientist Night. (Photo: John Bamber Photography)

After a chilly winter in Chattanooga, the world around us is beginning to reawaken. Dormant trees now pop with color as native wildflowers emerge from the ground. Those who are tuned in to the natural world have noticed the tiniest blooms and the growing choruses of songbirds and frogs. There’s a lot of amazing things going on outside, yet thanks to innumerable digital distractions to tempt their eyes and hog their attention, children today suffer from “nature-deficit disorder.” In a sense, they can’t see the forest for their screens.

Fortunately, as rampant as it is, this condition is easy enough to cure, said Dr. Brooke Gorman, the Director of Science Education at the Tennessee Aquarium.

“By getting them out in the world, you can really give them a different perspective on their lives and the world around them,” she said. “Connecting with nature is important because it helps us feel grounded and more relaxed. It helps us to step away from the screens and really engage with the world around us and with each other.”


On Friday, the Aquarium will host a Backyard Scientist night. This celebration of native plants and animals could be considered a clinic for those suffering from nature-deficit disorder by teaching them to reconnect with and better appreciate the wilderness in their own backyard.

Attendees will join experts from the Aquarium’s education department (and a few native animal ambassadors) for a fun-filled evening focused on showcasing the interesting behaviors of fascinating wildlife found in the Southeast.

In addition to making and snacking on a tasty treat, participants will learn how to attract animals to their homes by making their yards more wildlife-friendly. Guests also will learn about the work being done by the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, whose scientists seek to safeguard and further our understanding of Southeastern species like the lake sturgeon, Southern Appalachian brook trout, alligator snapping turtle and spotted salamander.

Click here for more information about Backyard Scientist night.

The Backyard Scientists night runs 5-8:30 p.m. on April 6 and is free for Aquarium members. Tickets for nonmembers are $14.50 for adults or $9.50 for ages 3-12. Members can purchase add-on tickets to the 5 or 6 p.m. screenings of “The Wild Around You 3D” for $8. Nonmember IMAX tickets are $11.95 for adults or $9.95 for ages 3-12.

“The Wild Around You 3D”
Directed and produced by Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Andrew Young, the film presents stunningly shot, incredibly intimate scenes of animals living in and around the home of a typical American family suffering from nature deficit disorder. Using novel techniques — including miniaturized cameras, motion-control rigs, time-lapse and high-speed photography — filmmakers present incredible scenes of amazing natural behaviors, such as the daredevil leap of wood duck ducklings from their treetop nests to the legion-strong march of spotted salamanders toward their forest-pool breeding grounds.

Learn more about The Wild Around You 3D here.