CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of students from the south suburbs were among the first to try out the Shedd Aquarium’s first outdoor exhibit on Tuesday, getting the chance to literally reach out and touch a school of stingrays swimming in a pool outside the aquarium.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports 3rd graders from St. Christopher Catholic School in south suburban Midlothian were the first Shedd visitors to experience the new “Stingray Touch” exhibit.

The 20,000-gallon pool is located under a tent on the Shedd’s south terrace, and currently has 29 rays. Eventually, the pool will hold 40 rays.

The kids seemed to love the new exhibit, saying the stingrays were “cool,” “smooth,” “slimy” and “scary.”

Shedd President and CEO Ted Beattie was watching as the kids got an up-close look at the stingrays, and touched their smooth skin as they glided through the pool.

“It gives people a really different understanding of the animals, and they’re really friendly. I mean they’re really soft. It’s a great experience,” Beattie said.

The rays in the pool don’t have the deadly barbs used to sting in self-defense, so visitors don’t have to worry about being hurt.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday.

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