We arrived at the Nature Center 10 minutes before the center opened, so we took a stroll to the small lake across the street. With the sun shining and a slightly chilly breeze drifting across the lake, I balanced on the stone barrier of the lake as Kerry, Sam, and Heather followed behind slowly. Something about the situation was very peaceful, a nice break for us all from the stresses of the week.
The lightness of the day continued even as we moved indoors. The receptionist greeted us with a friendly smile. A young child stumbled into the exhibit with her mother as they both giggled. And I could hear the sounds of rushing water as I stood the sunlit lobby.
The first room of the exhibit consisted of an interactive display about the James River Watershed. While clearly aimed for children, with the way it lit up when you pressed various buttons. But is it really? A small child, while he may push the buttons and gawk at the lights, cannot entirely grasp the scale of the miniature display. Once a child begins to ask questions, where do they direct them? Immediately, they ask their parent, who, in order to respond, has to have some understanding of the concept already. If the parent doesn’t know, then there are plenty of employees who are there to answer questions, which, while educating the inquisitive child, also educates the parent. In this sense, I feel like interactive exhibits aimed for children, simultaneously educate the parents.
As for what I specifically learned, not all too much because I was already knowledgeable about a lot of things at the exhibit thanks to class. However, my current knowledge was definitely enhanced by learning the material through a kinesthetic medium. In addition, the multitude of diverse animals on display were intriguing and got across the importance of keeping our watershed, specifically our river, healthy and clean.
But my favorite part, by far, was Beetle – a fully-grown female screech owl, standing just under 8 inches. We stood around and listened to her trainer for a good half hour. Personally, I love owls, so I was more than enthralled by the conversation with her trainer and probably asked too many questions.
Overall, I came out of Maymont having learned a lot about Beetle and solidified my knowledge about the James River Watershed. Not to mention the peace of mind I received from just being in Maymont.