"I always wonder about animals and how they look on the inside, and this is awesome!" the
"Wild and Well" is the first indoor permanent exhibit added at the
The new interactive play area is designed for preschoolers and young school-aged children to experience the jobs of animal keepers and wildlife veterinarians. Children can prepare meals for the animals in a large kitchen area, tend to animals (stuffed versions of the real animals residing at the museum), give sick and well check-ups, look at blood and cell images under microscopes and watch videos of museum keepers and veterinarians talking about their jobs.
"We've set up the framework, but all of the real magic will come from the children's imaginations," said
In fact, the
Farris said that designing the exhibit himself gave him the flexibility to base everything on what actually goes on behind the scenes at the living museum. Diet cards on mini clipboards tell children what an opossum eats or how to make a worm salad for an omnivore like the raccoon, for example. Veterinarian checklists tell the tiny pretenders exactly how to care for an ailing snake or injured bird.
"Every department got together and threw out ideas," said
The new exhibit replaces the geology center on the bottom floor of the museum.
"While there were ways to interact in that (geology) center, it wasn't as interactive as we wanted it to be," Farris said.
Benches near the new exhibit will allow parents to watch their children play and learn.
"This is meant to be a place where you can come and stay for hours, and you can come back to this exhibit again and again," he said. "There will always be something new to do, more to learn."
The exhibit was funded through an anonymous grant and an ongoing donation from
The living museum also is hosting an animatronic dinosaurs exhibit this summer and has special programming in conjunction with it, including a live puppetry show and an outdoor dig space where children can find real fossils and take them home.
While the traveling dinosaur exhibit is designed to boost tourism and daily admission rates, the new permanent exhibit was put together with memberships in mind.
"Our primary target audience is families with children (ages) 8 and younger," Farris said. "This gives them even more to do. They can stay here at the museum even longer."
In addition, through slide shows of photos on large television screens and videos, the museum's behind-the-scenes operations will be more visible.
(The keepers and veterinarians) are the heart of what we do here at the museum," Farris said. "We are accredited because of the high standards we have. This gives us a way to showcase our keepers and vets. And maybe we will inspire some of the children to pursue jobs with animals, too."
Paitsel can be reached by phone at 757-247-4737.
Find more photos of the new
Want to go?
What: Wild and Well, a permanent, interactive exhibit for children to explore the roles of animal keeper and wildlife veterinarian
When: The exhibit opened to the public on
Cost: Admission to the museum is
Information: 595-1900 or thevlm.org.
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