Just Say "Wow!"
Their parents caught up with them in the room-size exhibit called "Why I Hunt." Bryan pushed all the buttons so he could hear and see different people explain why they hunt. They all learned the reasons behind a decline in wildlife habitat.
"Mommy, look at this man's dress!" Allie called, pointing to a life-size model of an Osage tribesman in buckskin clothing. The exhibit in front of her explains how hunting has evolved from native populations, who needed to hunt for meat and clothing and other essentials, to modern hunters and trappers, who still make use of animals but also enjoy hunting as a recreational activity.
After checking out the life-like characters, Bryan and Allie raced to the next area, where three bobcats stopped them in their tracks. The cats - two males and a female - remained oblivious to the visitors. One was catnapping; the other two playfully swiped at each other while leaping from perch to perch in their glass enclosure.
Mom and Dad were the first into the Conservation Heroes room, where "talking books" play video clips of Missouri's most notable conservationists, including Eugene Poirot and Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz. The room feels like a comfortable library, and visitors can even have their picture taken as the next "Conservation Hero." The museum supplements its income from entrance fees by renting this room and the shark room for special events.
Amy Dooley hopes to someday offer the entire museum for after-hours use so that organized groups of schoolchildren or scouts can enjoy overnight stays.
Dooley is also starting an Explorer Post at the WOW museum, but the most exciting project in the works is a new, freestanding education center to be constructed beginning next year on museum land. It will house classrooms, conference and library rooms, a laboratory and an animal collection. Until it is finished, temporary classroom facilities will host a conservation education program.
Before they visit the WOW museum, kids will visit a classroom for a discussion led by an instructor/naturalist. This pre-visit helps teachers accomplish classroom goals because it is designed to meet Missouri's educational testing standards.
Dooley and all of the instructors are Conservation Department employees.
By agreement, Dooley can draw on the expertise of Conservation Department biologists, education consultants, naturalists and foresters, and the museum reimburses the Department for the costs of the education program.
"Conservation education is the foundation of WOW's mission," Dooley said. "The unique partnership with the Conservation Department helps the museum be a national role model for conservation education, and it helps promote the conservation message."
All this talk of partnerships, agreements and educational concepts is far removed from the activities of Bryan and Allie, who have their faces glued to the 19-foot tall shark tank that holds 220,000 gallons of saltwater. Bryan watches an eel, while Allie studies a ray. It's clear the museum is working for them.
WOW! It's a museum
The American National Fish and Wildlife Museum - Wonders of Wildlife - opened in November 2001. The WOW museum is located in Springfield at the corner of Sunshine and Campbell, next door to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Its winter hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the museum is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission costs $7.25 for children ages 4 to 11, and $11.25 for adults age 12 and over. Children under the age of 4 are admitted free. Discounts are available for senior citizens, students, military personnel and groups.
Memberships cost between $25 and $85 and entitle members to a range of benefits ranging from unlimited use passes to gift shop discounts.