Where in the Zoo? Discovery Forest!
So where in the Zoo was this picture taken?
In the P & G Discovery Forest!
The 4,500-square-foot P&G Discovery Forest is a tropical rainforest housed in a unique, three-story circular atrium as part of the Harold C. Schott Education Center that opened in 1996. I was so fortunate to be able to work on the interpretive graphics and interactives for this exhibit.
Targeted for children and their families, the Discovery Forest is designed to engage guests in a multi-sensory exploration of the world of plants and their importance. The setting is a tropical Latin American rainforest, incorporating interpretive elements from throughout Central and South America and even into Mexico. (Some plants from other tropical areas in the world are also featured for their significance to the theme of why plants are important.) Several neotropical animals—two-toed sloth, blue and gold macaw, and boa constrictor—are also displayed in the exhibit to emphasize the relationship between plants and wildlife. All life depends on plants.
Guests are guided throughout the exhibit by José, a character who appears on the signage. José is a young, modern-day boy who lives in Latin America. Perhaps he lives near the rainforest, and visits it frequently. He learns about the forest and the plants through his visits and from his tribal elders. Guests join José as he explores the forest, and through his words and suggestions, they discover the importance of the forest, particularly the plants, and the need to protect it. The signage is presented from José’s perspective, in childlike prose with children’s book style illustrations. I wrote the animal and plant ID signs as if they are pages in José’s journal.
Stepping into the Discovery Forest, guests are greeted by lush tropical plantings, the gurgling sound of a small waterfall, and the squawking of a blue and gold macaw. They encounter plants that are important sources of food, such as breadfruit and cacao trees. The forest also features plants that provide us with medicines, like rosy periwinkle. There are also plants that provide other beneficial products, such as kapok and rubber trees.
The star of the Discovery Forest is Moe, the most charismatic two-toed sloth you’ll ever meet.
Beneath her tree, an interactive panel illustrates how plants, particularly trees, support all life, including Moe, by providing shelter, filtering water, and so on.
Guests can also peer into a shaman’s hut, where José’s grandfather lives, for a look at the life of a medicine man. Artifacts such as hunting and cooking tools adorn the small shelter. A boa constrictor exhibit is incorporated into the hut’s design.
There are several activities to engage guests during their visit. Young children and their families are encouraged to notice the beauty and diversity around them through a game of I Spy with José.
Older children and their families can embark on a Shaman Quest, which begins with a plant quiz on a touchscreen that leads them into a clue-driven quest to find hidden shamans within the forest.
As guests exit, they are bid farewell by José, who reminds them that plants really do matter and suggests several ways they can help protect them.
The Discovery Forest is a great place to visit this time of year. Even in winter, it’s tropical and toasty and there’s always something in bloom. So come on out and see us, and sign up for spring and summer camps while you’re here!