During our most recent visit to the Topeka Zoo, we discovered the Living Learning Center. Let me tell you: it was amazing. The walls are covered with animal specimens and exhibits, there are live creatures everywhere, and there’s something to explore for virtually every sense.
When you enter the space, there’s a large water feature at your left. There’s audio interest from the waterfall into the little pond and, potentially, from the turtles and caimans that live in the pond. Along the right wall are a series of glass enclosures with different small creatures in them, leading up to a large habitat with an armadillo. One of the volunteers got out the armadillo while we were there so some of the children could get a closer look, so I think you’ve got a chance of a very close look and/or touch if you’ve got the right animal and the right volunteer.
As you continue around the room, there’s a live black-footed ferret in an exhibit that’s half hers and half taxidermied prairie dogs. There are two tall elephant tusks on display and an enormous tree stump. When you reach the wall by the entrance, you’ll find a series of exhibits and creatures, largely insects and arachnids. There are examples of contraband animal items, including, sadly, elephant-foot trash cans. While it’s terrible that people would make such things, it does provide an opportunity to feel an elephant’s foot to get an idea of how very large it is; many of the exhibits on this wall include tactile elements. There are drawers you can pull out with specimens and learning tools in them, including one of moulds of scat (at least I hope they were moulds!). There are also special boxes designed for anyone to reach in “blind” to see what they feel and determine if they can identify it.
There isn’t any braille, but it’s still worth visiting. There are tons of hands-on activities, and the volunteers are friendly. If you’re making a trip to the Topeka Zoo and the Center is open, definitely check it out.
The Center is staffed by volunteers, so its hours may vary. It’s generally open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. through March. The Center’s also used for zoo school and events like birthday parties.
We’re zoo fans and we’re in Topeka fairly regularly, so I’ve written about the zoo before. Previous posts are: The World Famous Topeka Zoo