Outside In Makeover

By Carolyn Belardo

After a monthlong makeover, Outside In, the popular hands-on nature discovery center for children, has reopened with exciting new activities and shiny new play areas. Designed for children ages 3-8 and their parents, Outside In is a warm, welcoming place where inquisitive youngsters can investigate a forest, explore a pond, touch live animals, and much more.

Some new elements to look for on your next visit include:

  • an eagle’s nest kids can climb into and pretend to be a majestic bird;
  • a nature lab filled touchable animal skulls, furs, claws and teeth;
  • a large-screen projection of natural objects that can be swapped in and out;
  • a sandy beach to play in;
  • a life-size tree with hidden animals children can enjoy rediscovering with each visit;
  • costumes for dramatic dress-up;
  • nature books and comfy critter pillows to relax on.

For most children, a family or class visit to Outside In is the first time they will experience the thrill of touching a live blue-tongued skink or the bravery of holding a live Madagascar hissing cockroach in the palms of their tiny hands. Here children are able to start developing foundational scientific skills such as making observations using their senses and making predictions.

“The close encounters with some of our live animals provide a sense of wonder and help encourage our young visitors’ natural curiosity,” says Timshel Purdum, the Academy’s director of education and lifelong learning.

The concept of Outside In dates back to 1959 when the Junior League of Philadelphia, a philanthropic women’s organization, helped create a new children’s area within the museum. By 1976, this area developed into what was dubbed the “Please Touch Museum.” Two years later, the Please Touch Museum moved to its own facility, and by 1979 Outside In developed into a permanent hands-on discovery center devoted to enriching young children.

Inspired by the curiosity and enthusiasm of Outside In’s current regular visitors, the Academy has created the Adopt-A-Critter program, which offers an opportunity to help us care for the center and its animals. You can support Adopt-A-Critter by purchasing customized plaques that will become a central feature of the new Outside In. To learn more about the Adopt-A-Critter program, visit Adopt-A-Critter or call the Office of Institutional Advancement at 215-299-1122.

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