KidZone opens outdoor natural science learning

Special to the Sun
Erskine Photos/Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.comKidZone Museum in Truckee now offers children an outdoor place to play winter, spring, summer and fall.

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Dreams do come true at the KidZone Museum, but only with the ongoing support of its volunteers, donors and members. On Sept. 29, the Museumand#8217;s new outdoor natural science learning center opened after a year of preparation. Complementing the many hands-on indoor explorative options at KidZone, the learning center offers water and plenty of sand play; a hand and wind powered iron windmill; two slides accessed by stone steps in the dirt; a nature escape under a willow tree arbor; a hanging scale to weigh various items; watering buckets to water the edible garden and much more. And, the Center is open in winter for various snow play activities, like building snow men and caves.

and#8220;The idea for the Outdoor Natural Science Learning Center originated in 2009. We saw a need to offer the community a place to have kids engage in outdoor nature and science activities in a safe collaborative environment,and#8221; said Carol Meagher, executive director, KidZone Museum. and#8220;A special thanks is given to the many volunteers and donors who helped with this huge project.and#8221;

The outdoor natural science learning center grew to fruition with the generous support of numerous donors. Teichert Aggregate and the Teichert Foundation, located in Sacramento, Calif., donated its manpower and building materials. Teichert construction men did all the excavation, and donated materials included items such as large boulders; sand and big concrete and#8220;ringsand#8221; which are cut-off utility storm water lines. Ed Herrnberger and Tom Herschbach from Teichert Aggregates and John Purvis from Teichert Construction donated the materials from their Martis Valley plant, and they did the actual on the ground work.

Basalite, located in Reno, Nev., which specializes in concrete products, donated and delivered all the pavers that offer an outdoor path alongside the museum and the Nature Center.

Many other donors made this project a reality including: Basalite General Manager, Gorden Hinkle; Eric Larusson, Villager Nursery; Josh Root, Root of Design Electric; Greg Beardsley- Alpine Yard Care; Nature Fund at Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation; Scott Cross and#8211;Streamscapes; Tahoe Tree Co.; Trout Creek Landscaping; Petrucci Mullin Family and The Rock Garden.

and#8220;A lot of thought and work went into the outdoor expansion of the museum. We visited other museum outdoor learning spaces and did extensive research so we could install what we think are the best learning tools that also provide the most fun,and#8221; said Elizabeth Bordner, exhibits manager, KidZone Museum.

Early childhood is a unique and critical time for connecting with nature. Sadly, in many places across America, children are spending less time outdoors than ever. Natural playscapes are a way to reconnect young children with their natural world. Parents and guardians can use the Center to help their children to learn through play in nature.

and#8220;What looks like a simple episode of outdoor play is actually a crucial process in a childand#8217;s development. Studies have shown enhancement and improvement in mental health because of the freedom of play in nature, like when we were kids and our parents were not afraid to let us roam the neighborhood, and our life was not consumed with structured sports,and#8221; said Brooke Landis, Museum early childhood educator. and#8220;Research shows that nature play is another great way a child develops a sense of fascination and curiosity; higher attention levels; greater self-discipline; sense of place and sense of identity along with higher cognitive functioning.and#8221;

A featured exhibit at the Outdoor Nature Centerand#8217;s opening included the Riina brotherand#8217;s, Uromastyx Egyptian Spiny Tail Lizard, Spike, and two Fire Belly Toads, Fred and George, named after characters in Harry Potter. Alek who is in sixth grade and Drake who is in fourth featured their pets and explained to guests how to care for them. They also highlighted Sierra native pacific tree frogs, which they explained grow to the size of a 50-cent coin.

and#8220;I was really glad that we could share our pets at the Nature Center opening. I have tons of fun at the KidZone. I first started learning about and really liking dinosaurs and amphibians, and by exploring more about nature, I now like all sorts of lizards, geckos, and freshwater fish,and#8221; said Alek Riina. and#8220;At one time we had 23 pets in our home,and#8221; added Alekand#8217;s younger brother, Drake.

For more information on how to support the KidZone Museum, please visit and click on and#8220;Support Us.and#8221; Call 530-587-KIDS or drop by 11711 Donner Pass Road, Truckee.

and#8212; Submitted to

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