Many people mistakenly refer to Florida’s Everglades as a swamp, when it is actually an incredibly wide, shallow, and slow-moving river – which has earned it the nickname “River of Grass.” It is a spectacular sight to see, but visitors to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science will also be able to explore and learn about this unique and fragile environment in our dynamic River of Grass exhibit. This space is being specially designed to engage our youngest visitors through hands-on interaction and sensory experiences that involve the sights, sounds, and feel of the Everglades, while reinforcing science process skills like observing and experimenting and providing additional in-depth information to keep adults engaged as well.
With this goal in mind, the Museum worked with University of Miami researchers recently to evaluate how we can best engage our young visitors and their families in the Everglades environment. Findings revealed that children are most interested in the animals that call the Everglades home – more specifically, it is important for children to see details in the animal’s body and face, to see it in context of its natural surroundings, and to see it moving or “in action” in some way. These discoveries, among others, will be incorporated into the development of the River of Grass exhibit, to create story-driven experiences of animals, water, and nature that will let children interact with the Everglades in ways that compel their families to explore along with them.
To further inform our design plans, we are now building a prototype water flow table at our current Museum, in which children can experiment with how changes in the water might affect all the different types of animals in the Everglades. Stay tuned, as we are also are beginning to design the multimedia parts of the River of Grass experience!