Creating Polar Play Zone at Shedd
For the top-to-bottom Oceanarium renovation, Kris Nesbitt, senior exhibit designer, and Kara Kotwas, senior graphic designer, saw the underwater viewing gallery as a blank canvas on which to create a universally accessible permanent exhibit where “all children can find something to do.”
Their criteria were that it had to include a multitude of tactile activities, cater to different learning styles and engage children in play. And it’s not just science being presented in Polar Play Zone; the theme of polar opposites provides cross-curriculum connections like language arts (vocabulary), as well as, says Nesbitt, “quiet math activities” such as number comparisons.
The pair realized, after more than a dozen trips to children’s museums across the country, that they were pretty lucky to inherit an exhibit retrofit that would feature some of children’s favorite animals. But they also worked hard to build in features that ensure that every child has an opportunity to experience these amazing animals.
If you have a child with special needs, ask a Shedd staff member about ways those with limited mobility can experience the water play table and the touch pool. And ask about the wheelchair transfer point in the penguin playscape. Polar Play Zone is designed for everyone!
Posted by Karen Furnweger, web editor