New classroom area is designed for young children and their caregivers

The Saint Louis Zoo’s new Monsanto Education Gallery located in the lower level of The Living World invites young children and their adult caregivers to explore the animal world together beginning June 8. The gallery was made possible by a gift of $2 million from the Monsanto Company to create a flexible, multi-purpose area at the Zoo.

“This Gallery expands the learning area for the Zoo’s Education Department and provides high quality science, environmental and conservation education programs, activities and guest experiences,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President & CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo. “This is a place where children can experience meaningful new links with nature and the animal world. We are grateful to Monsanto for making this possible.”

“As stewards of our world, there is no greater gift parents, teachers, conservationists and scientists can give our children and community than access to education about our environment,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto Company chairman and CEO. “Through fun interactive play and learning in this new gallery, we can help children understand what needs to be done to protect it and spark an interest in science and conservation within them now that will last a lifetime.”

The Gallery’s goal is to provide unique opportunities for children, age 0 to 8, and their caregivers to explore the wonders of the natural world together and to discover ways to extend love of nature to their everyday lives.

The Monsanto Education Gallery will also help the Zoo make its educational summer camp programs even better. Camp Joey, the Zoo’s day camp for children 4 to 5 years old, will now operate out of the Gallery space on weekdays in the summer. Camp Joey helps children who are at least 4 years old and who have not yet completed Kindergarten learn about nature through such experiences as exploring animal movement, senses, body covering and defenses.

Campers will enjoy exploring both the related thematic areas and the benefits of a classroom designed for the physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs of young children. With a 1:5 staff-to-camper ratio, parents can also be assured that each child gets individual attention.

A discovery room like no other within the Gallery, Wild Wonder Outpost focuses on child-directed exploration, investigation and play, featuring age-appropriate animal and environmental themes. Families and groups can come to the Wild Wonder Outpost discovery room program throughout the year, Saturdays and Sundays June 8 through August 9, and seven days a week the remainder of the year. They will be able to investigate animal biofacts, design their own Zoo exhibits and create creature crafts to take home. Puppets, costumes, a backyard habitat and a variety of play areas encourage children to experience the world of animals—and to have fun!

Families with children of multiple ages can experience changing, interactive offerings that reach across the spectrum of early childhood development.

Children can choose their own brand of fun at these Wild Wonder Outpost stations:

At Backyard Wildlife Experience, youth can explore an interactive playhouse and its habitat. Children use binoculars, magnifiers and field guides to identify native wildlife. Animal clues help identify scat, bird songs and more. Kids can turn compost, care for native plants and find out how to attract wildlife to their own backyards.

At Animal Care Corner, kids investigate the jobs of zookeepers, veterinarians, researchers and other professionals. Donning costumes, they pretend to care for Zoo animals and to practice the tools of their chosen trades. They discover how zookeepers care for animals as they sift scat, squeegee aquariums and hook snakes. They can also examine X-rays, bandage bears and listen to the heart of a hippo, just like a real veterinarian.

At Animal Explorations, kids create an underwater adventure with amazing animal models in the water sensory table. Or, by looking at items on a light table, children can view butterfly wings or other delicate animal parts.

At Build-A-Habitat, children can create their own animal habitat with realistic animal replicas and natural elements. Using plants, logs, caves, fences and waterways, youngsters build wild animal habitats or design zoo homes.

At the Wildlife Theater, children can create wacky wildlife adventures with a diverse cast of animal puppets or tell a story with the forest finger puppets in their giant tree stump homes. They can also don a costume and fly like a butterfly or charge like a rhino across the stage.

Cubs & Pups Pad is just for the wee ones! Ages 2 and under can play with puppets, plush animals and puzzles on the soft leaf mats, or crawl through our ever changing animal burrow. Their caregivers can help them explore the animal world through books and manipulatives that simulate how animals, move, act and sound.

To ensure a meaningful learning experience for everyone, the Wild Wonder Outpost will require a ratio of one adult for every four children attending the program. Children are encouraged to self-select activities and build their own knowledge base. Prompts are available for caregivers to help extend their child’s exploration, and early childhood instructors are always there to help, as well. The Gallery staff of nine early childhood instructors includes classroom teachers, environmental educators and early childhood specialists; they bring a wide variety of experiences and expertise to all of the Gallery’s programs.

Summer hours for Wild Wonder Outpost are 9, 10 and 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays June 8 through August 9. Tickets for a 45-minute session are $3.00 per person ($2.00 for members). Children under 1 are free. One adult is required for every four children. Tickets are available at the Guest Services desks at both the north and south entrances of the Zoo. Check the Zoo’s website at or call (314) 646-4544 for information.

In 2014, the Zoo plans to offer a half day pre-school program that will operate mornings during the school year in the Monsanto Education Gallery. It will integrate science and animal themes across the curriculum. Children ages 4 to 5 will attend on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, while children ages 3 to 4 will attend on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Details are still being developed, and more information will be announced as it becomes available.

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