Nature play at the Minnesota Zoo began the summer of 2015 with the opening of Hanifl Family Wild Woods nature play area. However, every program the Zoo offers is grounded in nature experiences.  Families are becoming increasingly interested in connecting to the outdoors, and the Minnesota Zoo strives to provide the unstructured, exploratory opportunities that all family members can enjoy. From petting the goats at the farm, to collecting and analyzing water in our education classes, the Minnesota Zoo understands just how beneficial nature play can be for the development of a child. 

Hanifl Wild Woods 2015 - Damon Farber (92)

Nature play is the perfect catalyst to developing the empathy that inspires conservation action in defense of nature, which in turn leads to a broader impact on nature worldwide.   With the opening of Hanifl Family Wild Woods, families now have a fun and safe place to explore nature while also learning about animals that live in wild places around the world. The Zoo’s mission of connecting people, animals, and the natural world to save wildlife is fully evident in nature play programming.  By allowing families to play in nature, with nature, a respect and appreciation is developed.  And as these grow, the Zoo is able to foster conservation attitudes and behaviors that benefit wildlife across the globe.

Hanifl Wild Woods 2015 - Damon Farber (3)

The Minnesota Zoo has developed a series of three family nature play programs.  These programs feature facilitated explorations of the nature play area, animal exhibits, and portions of the Zoo’s nonpublic, undeveloped 250+ acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairie.  While families mess about with loose parts, climbing, crawling, digging, and discovering in a `please touch’ natural environment, they will also draw connections between the animal exhibits, program activities, and animals in the wild.

Hanifl Wild Woods 2015 - Damon Farber (2)