The Wild Center

Friday, Sept 8, 2006

I was a little concerned when the parking lot was being paved as we arrived at the Wild Center of the Adirondacks. The center, which opened in July 2006, looks unfinished from the outside – plenty of construction equipment, lots of unfinished landscaping, and of course, the half paved parking lots.

I shouldn’t have worried – the Wild Center, located in Tupper Lake, NY, is a wonderful nature center devoted to the natural ecology of the Adirondacks region. The opening exhibit is a display of a melting glacier, complete with melting ice water shooting out of it, large chunks of ice breaking off, and what can only be described as a giant icicle that you can put your hand on. Somehow they manage to make topics such as Nematodes, Sphagnum, and roots seem interesting, and the bright, modern displays made for enjoyable browsing.

For the kids, I’m not sure they needed to build anything other than the otter display – Vance spent most of the afternoon hanging around ‘playing’ with the otters – he’d run back and forth circling his arms, the otter would swim back and forth and do loops in the water. They both seemed to be having a great time!

We enjoyed a unique film about the Adirondacks which was simply a collection of wide format 35mm slides, set to a commissioned composition. For 20 mins you are treated to nothing but views and sounds of the Adirondacks – no talking.

The center offers a variety of programs – the usual reptile and snake viewings, and several naturalist hikes. Vance attended a ‘Jr. Naturalist’ hike, which largely consisted of a nature scavenger hunt. Unfortunately (at least for us), the group was largely made up of pre-school age children, so the naturalist pretty well had to tailor her program for them, but Vance still seemed to enjoy it, and asked lots of good questions.

One area both Denise and I and really liked was the media center in the middle of the displays. A large round room filled with flat screen TV’s and interactive kiosks, you could select from a multitude of topics to view. Each vignette, usually around 5 mins long, covered an area of interest about the Adirondacks. Examples include tracking moose, rafting the Hudson Gorge, acid rain, life cycles of deer, creatures that live under the snow, high altitude forests, etc….it was quite easy to spend several hours in this area watching the various films, all filmed and narrated with high quality. The creators of the Wild Center put a lot of effort into this exhibit, and it shows.

There was also a children’s oriented video, called ‘The Systems of Nature, or the Nature of Systems’, which explained various natural topics such as unsustainability due to overcrowding of wildlife, energy from the sun, etc….The topics were acted out by a comedy troupe of jugglers, if you can believe it, and were surprisingly effective judged by how long Vance sat and watched them. The use of puppets and the dry, sarcastic humor displayed was perfect for capturing and holding a modern child’s interest.

Vance always enjoys nature centers, so we make a point to visit whenever we find one in the area, but this was a welcome relief from glass displays full of stuffed animals. The really nice thing about the center – it’s new, and everything works. This center is obviously well funded, and takes advantage of the latest thinking in exhibit design and layout. Highly recommended.

Vance: The Wild Center had many amazing animals. First we had a scavenger hunt outside. They had a exhibit on glaciers, and you touch a piece of one! There were many fish and turtles to see. Next we saw their otter, she was so cute and her name was Squirt. There was a video about nature at 2:30. Also, they had mini videos about animals in the winter. It turns out people leave marks on trees when they take them home for Christmas.

Sometimes the otter would swim around in circles over me. She was a very playful otter.

They had a thing about the artic tundra, they called it “the city in the sky”! I loved the exhibit on the snow climate.

P.S. They have two otters but use one at a time.

P.P.S. The other otter's name is Squeaker.

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