Families may only expect to see animals when visiting the zoo, but those who go to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island, will see much more thanks to a new exhibit. The Boston Globe reports the famous zoo recently opened the new Hasbro's Our Big Backyard and the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Treehouse exhibit to help kids engage in outdoor play
The exhibit, which opened last month, was created in an attempt to help today's youth build a relationship with the environment they live in, the news outlet reports. The setup is meant to simulate a traditional backyard to show kids how fun it can be to simply be in the outdoors. More organizations have been working to get children back outside, especially as "nature-deficit disorder," a phrase coined by writer Richard Louv, has grown in America.
When visiting the exhibit, kids are able to play in the life-size home and backyard, which house a variety of outdoor activities, the Globe reports. Youngsters can hang out in the treehouse outfitted with telescopes and a sound machine among other fun aspects. Kids are encouraged to cool off in the summer heat by playing with water and creating wind on the wind machine. Others can try their luck at finding bugs on the insect scavenger hunt. The final piece of the project, the natural trail, is set to be complete in 2014 and will be the home to animals native to the area including porcupines, turkeys and lynxes.
According to zoo officials, the exhibit has been a huge success thus far, especially since the park draws about 600,000 visitors each year.
Kids have also been enjoying the nature swap in the exhibit which allows them to bring something unique they found in nature to the zoo to trade for other fun natural items. According to the news outlet, one child recently traded an unusual pine cone for a dead beetle.
Richard Hitchener, the program manager of the exhibit loves explaining the space to children and their families. He even quizzes them on animals, plants and the local ecosystem in an attempt to get them involved in nature.
"I'm trying to get families to do the outdoor play," Hitchener told the publication. "It's all about this foundation of love and appreciation."
Going to the zoo, taking nature hikes or visiting the park to let kids use commercial playground equipment
can encourage youngsters to play outside more, while helping them get in 60 minutes of daily exercise as recommended by the Let's Move! initiative.