The Virginia Zoo is adding an outdoor, natural play area this summer on zoo grounds, thanks to several grants from local organizations, including a $25,000 grant from the Rotary District 7600, Norfolk Rotary Charities, Inc., Norfolk Sunrise Rotary and the Virginia Beach Rotary Club Foundation.
The new environment will be used for unstructured and informal play, that incorporates the natural and surrounding landscape and vegetation, to bring nature to children’s daily outdoor play and learning environments, according to the Norfolk, Va.-based, zoo's executive director, Greg Bockheim. He also says such an area is proven to boost a child's cognitive, creative, physical, social and emotional development.
“The zoo is committed to building the experience of nature into childhood,” said Bockheim. “We aim to promote and strengthen children’s outdoor learning experiences, to help the next generation become more environmentally-minded; and, move the future in a more sustainable direction.”
The nearly one-acre play area will be located near the zoo’s Flora Point section and feature tree stumps, and pieces, to be used as climbing, walking and jumping structures. (Sun stock image.)
The nearly one-acre play area will be located near the zoo’s Flora Point section and feature tree stumps, and pieces, to be used as climbing, walking and jumping structures; also, to use as a sandbox for digging, a sensory walk, willow tunnel and a bamboo maze. In addition to being open to the public daily for free-play, the area will be utilized for informal, free programming from the zoo's Education Department.
“As Rotarians, we continually seek ways to improve quality of life for people living near us, and, around the world,” said Rotary Club of Norfolk President Pamela Tubbs. “We recognized Nature Play as a wonderful community service project, in which we could invest not only money, but, ongoing volunteer support.”
New bathrooms, which have been donated by the city of Norfolk, have also been installed and will open this spring.
The zoo will host a Family Volunteer Day on May 4, when volunteers can assist with a variety of projects, including, constructing aspects of the play area.
For more information visit, virginiazoo.org/family-volunteer-day.