Monday, October 13, 2014

Ranger Kids at Werribee Zoo: A lesson in educational play

We’ve been on a few adventures and special outings since we started our year of Intentional Play. Dear Boy still talks about Scienceworks – “with the science, Mummy” - especially the CFA demonstration (Big fire engine! Fire!) and the Nitty Gritty Super City exhibition 

On the weekend we headed out to Werribee Zoo (I know it’s not space-themed, but we wanted something fun for him to do with his Grandma M). Dear Boy was disappointed with the animals – too early, too cold for most of them so not much for a toddler to look at – but he loved the Ranger Kids zone, an indoor themed-play area where kids can be rangers on the African savannah. Yes, the big wooden helicopter probably sealed the deal, but the whole play zone was a great example of an engaging and educational play space (and a good spot for little people to take a break or escape from the weather).

Ranger Kids is broken down into several play area:

  • A helicopter;
  • A field hospital;
  • A feeding station;
  • The savannah;
  • A village.

Dear Boy headed straight for the helicopter, slipping straight into pilot mode. After we pointed out the first-aid/medicine cross on the side of the chopper and he listened to a few of the radio messages that fire off when you press the assorted buttons, he started to look out for injured animals that he could load up and fly across the savannah to the hospital.

A quick stop at the dress-up station for a ranger jacket and a set of ‘noculars’ and my little ranger headed into the field hospital where he got to diagnose and treat small and large soft toys with a variety of conditions and ailments (cuts, broken bones, pregnancy, etc). With encouragement from one of the zoo’s own rangers, he bandaged an open fracture, checked out a monkey’s x-ray, stuffed the organs back into a sleeping lion, and delivered a baby giraffe (I have no idea where a giraffe's vagina is... but I'm guessing there's a little poetic licence with the anatomy on the toy above). 

Outside the hospital, Dear Boy learned the difference between carnivores and herbivores at the feeding station, selecting and weighing up a bucket load of (wooden) meat for the lion and lettuce for the monkey. 

Dear Boy wasn’t keen to change out his ranger outfit, but several other kids were dressed in the traditional garb of the Melako people, planting crops around the village area and racing in and out of the stick hits.

At two and a half years old, there are always limits on what Dear Boy’ll take away from these adventures and outings, but when the exhibitions are well-designed with kids’ ages and interests in mind, they stay with him. Ranger Kids offered plenty of little moments where Dear Boy could learn and engage more deeply with the issues surrounding the animals of the zoo, rather than simply observing them through glass or over a fence.

For your info: Ranger Kids is open from 10:30am-2:30pm daily and is free with the zoo admission price. We became members after our trip to Melbourne zoo a few weeks ago ($88 for me with Dear Boy registered free on my ticket), which will give us great savings if we visit a zoo again (here or interstate). It also gave us 15% off at the gift shop where we got dear Boy his own set of ‘noculars’. 

Have you come across any awesome kids outreach activities or exhibitions?

P.S. Hippos are the cutest. 

1 comment :

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