Minnesota Zoo Playground
"To immerse the child in nature, to foster active play in the outdoors, and to reveal the curiosity and wonder of flora and fauna in our natural environment." - Minnesota Zoo mission statement for the new playground.
As our children spend as much as 6+ hours a day on devices and staring at screens, the gap between them and nature continues to grow. Research indicates that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy physical and emotional development of our children. The Center for Disease Control states, "Obesity affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents in 2020". As part of the Minnesota Zoo's mission to connect people, animals, and the natural world, they have taken an important step in reversing these trends to re-connect children with nature and foster environmental stewardship through the creation of the Hanifl Family Wild Woods nature-based play area. It is the first nature-based playground at the Minnesota Zoo.
Damon Farber Associates lead the design of the project. Their involvement began with the analysis of an otherwise overgrown, neglected, and underappreciated corner of the Minnesota Zoo that overlooks an existing wetland complex. Damon Farber engaged Zoo member families - including parents, grandparents, and children to understand how the playground could enhance their experience at the Zoo. The process included interactive model making by the children to illustrate how they wanted to play. They created models that described running, climbing, exploring, sliding, jumping, building, digging, and pretending. These basic actions, generated by both muscle and creative thought, began to set the program of the play feature development for Hanifl Family Wild Woods.
As seen in LASN magazine, February 2021.