Below is the content from a thread post that I made at ToledoTalk.com in September 2007
Sep 7, 2007 Blade story
The project may be built in two phases, with the $2 million second phase constructed only as are made to complete construction. Groundbreaking for the first $5.5 million phase will take place in February. That portion will be paid for through the 1-mill, 10-year capital improvement levy Lucas County voters approved in November.
Donations as in another levy? It's for the kids, after all, and the project can't be left unfinished.
The indoor-outdoor design will make the zoo a place for “rainy Saturday mornings,” said zoo Executive Director Anne Baker. “This is the place where Joey, who’s 4 years old, can run and can be noisy, and he can get dirty,” she said.
The idea behind the children’s area is to induce the kind of “interactive play” that best teaches children up to 8 years old about their connection with nature, said Mitch Magditch, the zoo’s education director. “We want to build an attachment to animals through engaging play in a safe environment with intergenerational and cooperative learning,” Mr. Magditch said.
In other words, go crazy, kids. It’s safe, and it’s all good.
I'd like to think kids will learn about their connection with nature, but I think this is a bullshit zoo claim meant to justify the expense for a project that's not needed. What about our taxpayer-supported city parks and Metroparks? What about the nature preserves and wildlife areas around here, such as Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, Mallard Marsh, Metzger Marsh, Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Maumee Bay State Park, W.W. Knight Nature Preserve, etc? And what about places like 577 Foundation, Toledo Botanical Gardens, Stranahan Arboretum, and so on?
Levy money will be used so little Joey can go crazy. What's in it for the adults who don't have kids? At least the normal parts of the zoo are for everyone. Let all the parents will little Joeys pay for a playground with their own money. And maybe little Joey wouldn't be so crazy if he wasn't drinking so much soda pop.
Children will begin their visit to the fenced exhibit by entering a room where they will encounter pets: dogs or cats, and maybe some guinea pigs, or a budgie — a small parrot.
You can see that by walking around a pet store that's not supported by tax dollars.
In the next area, kids become animals, painting their faces to transform themselves, and perhaps donning a beak to play a bird. With the beak, they may want to try fishing (for styrene fish) bird-style, to see if maybe they should stick to worms. They can perch, surrounded by birds in a new aviary area, or even build a bird house.
Morons. Go to a frigging metropark or a one of our fine local wildlife areas and watch the birds in a natural setting. Oh, gee, in a natural setting, you may encounter some mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and other flying things, and you may have to pull spider webs off your face. Or you may encounter heat, cold, rain, snow, and mud if you're in the OUTDOORS. Or you may even have to walk a mile or two if you're outdoors. Walking is probably a foreign concept for kids. Indoors in a controlled, sterile environment with food stands and restrooms nearby is somehow a more preferable way for kids to learn about and connect with nature.
Kids can connect with nature by reading non-fiction and fiction books that would hopefully spur their interest to visit a city park, then a metropark, and then a wildlife area. The school system could dedicate a little time in a science class to the Oak Openings Region, which is a unique, local area.
The Toledo Zoo's butterfly conservation projects seem fine, but I'm not a zoo guy. I've been to the Toledo Zoo a couple of times. It's nice. I enjoyed certain parts of it, but I prefer to see what naturally occurs around here, every month of the year by visiting our parks and wildlife areas. I learn more about nature that way than by going to a zoo, which no matter how it's constructed, the zoo is not natural. Seeing a Golden-crowned Kinglet in the Toledo area on a bitter cold day in January or February is more impressive than anything at the zoo, once you understand the Golden-crowned Kinglet.
In order to "connect with nature" you have to observe and learn about what naturally occurs right around you, including in your backyard. I live in West Toledo, and I don't see guinea pigs running around in our backyard. I do see chipmunks. Last week, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk in a neighbor's tree eating a chipmunk. I've seen Cooper's Hawks snag Mourning Doves and House Sparrows in our backyard. That's impressive. Will this new zoo playground teach kids about the differences between a Cooper's Hawk and a Red-Tailed Hawk?
I wonder if this new zoo interactive playground will have an exhibit that shows what exists in nature before and after an area of land is bulldozed and turned into another housing division or strip mall? I wonder if this new zoo kids playground will discuss in detail what's involved in preserving land and how developers and politicians work together to acquire land for development?
Is that too much information for a 5 or 6 year old? I'm not sure. The zoo thinks kids at this age will connect with nature.
Will this new zoo playground have an Oak Openings Region section that educates the kids on how special and important this local area is? If not, then this zoo playground is a definite waste of money and time, and it will not educate the kids about nature. The zoo, the kids, the adults, and nature would be better off if the zoo used that $7.5 million to buy land in the Oak Openings Region to save it from development like the Metroparks has been doing.
What's impressive about the zoo is its ROI. For every taxpayer dollar the zoo receives, the zoo returns five or six dollars back into the local economy. So in a spreadsheet numbers kind of way, it's easy to justify voting for zoo levies. Is this new zoo kids playground meant to generate more revenue? If so, fine, advertise it like that. But don't insult our intelligence by claiming it will help kids learn about nature. Compared to this new zoo addition, kids would probably learn more about nature by playing a Bassmasters video game.
There will be goats and guinea pigs to hang around with, a rock-climbing wall, a cave to hibernate in, and a slide to play otter on.
Oh yeah, that will teach the kids about the dynamics of bird migration and the importance of preserving habitat, which these migrating birds use as refueling stations as they travel hundreds or even thousands of miles between their breeding and wintering grounds. I'm sure going down a slide will teach the kids about factory and farm field runoff into rivers and streams. Ah, but again, that's probably too much info for such young people, right? Face painting is more acceptable.
Another thing I don't like about this new zoo project is this: teaches children up to 8 years old.
That's only through second grade. First of all, that's pretty young to be expecting a kid to connect with nature. Granted, kids need to be "brainwashed" early on about the fascinating aspects and importance of nature, but it needs to continue up to at least sixth or seventh grade.
Nature, however, should not be forced upon a child. Expose the child to nature by visiting nature not a playground and let the child form the connection on his or her own. This connection may not occur until the child becomes an adult. A kid could be involved in nature at an early age, then drift away from it for the next 20 years or so, but then come back to nature later in life due to the exposure to it at an early age. And I don't see this happening with the kid romping around with other kids in a controlled environment playground.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory educational programs for young people:
- Nature Tots - "for preschoolers ages 3 - 5, offers our future naturalists a chance to learn about nature through games, stories, songs, and outdoor activities."
- Young Explorers - "for ages 6 – 11, provides opportunities for kids to take part in outdoor explorations of fun and exciting nature related subjects such as: birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, and the many different habitats these creatures need to survive."
- Ohio Young Birders Club - "Age range for eligibility is 12 - 18."
- Nature Camp - "for grades 6 – 8, offers a week filled with high energy nature study as well as a whole lot of fun. The “Nature Camp Experience” includes activities such as: habitat studies, bird watching, fishing, journaling, swimming, scrap booking, canoeing, and an overnight campout."
I was around 5 years old when I started going with my Dad when he went squirrel hunting. I enjoyed being out in the woods, walking up and down those eastern Ohio hills. I started observing birds and other aspects of nature around that time, but I don't know if I had a connection with nature at age 5. I just liked it. I started carrying my own gun when I was in sixth grade after going through gun safety training. I hunted squirrel and grouse with my Dad through high school. We also trapped mink and muskrat in the late fall and early winter for a few years. Then we started fishing when I was in college, and we still fish together today (catch and release) when I visit my parents. My parents come up here in the spring so I can take them birdwatching at Magee Marsh.
My "connection with nature" today is due to my Dad taking me out into the woods and due to my Dad having birdfeeders and Purple Martin houses in the yard. When I was in grade school, I studied a bird field guide, and I read books and magazines about hunting and trapping. Fur-Fish-Game was a favorite magazine.
And I don't believe this new zoo project is serving an urban need when we already have city parks and other nearby parks. Heck, you can watch the Peregrine Falcons in downtown Toledo, and also this year at UT.
Observing and learning about one aspect of nature usually leads to an interest in something else. Today, I birdwatch and fish. From birdwatching, I have generated an interest in native plants, butterflies, dragonflies, and moths. Yes, moths.
One thing nature requires that many kids and adults probably don't have is patience. A controlled exhibit can keep kids constantly entertained and involved in some way, but it's not natural. You're only exposed to so much in a controlled environment. Kids won't get the randomness of nature with this new zoo exhibit. You won't have the fortunate luck of seeing a Merlin snag a Tree Swallow out of the air unless you spend time outside.
Obviously, a 5 year old won't be going to a local metropark or wildlife area on his or her own. A parent or a grandparent or an adult guardian needs to have a tiny interest in nature or at least be interested in helping the kid. Adults play a part in whether or not a kid "connects with nature." I suppose dumping the kids at the zoo is easier for the parents than walking around Oak Openings Metropark. So is this new zoo playground simply a taxpayer-funded daycare center, so parents don't have to parent?
I think this new taxpayer-funded zoo project will do more harm to nature in the long run because kids at an early age will only think of nature as some sort of theme park.
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