Kansas City, Mo. – Surprises await curious visitors of all ages at the Burr Oak Woods Nature Center. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) recently installed some new exhibits at the Center featuring creatures from giant woodpeckers to tiny minnows.
At The Stream Zone, running water mimics a small creek teeming with life. Real minnows swim in a pool. But also in place are remarkably realistic replicas of creatures that live in or near streams, such as frogs or a snapping turtle. A sycamore tree looms overhead. Go ahead, touch it, you'll wonder how an artificial tree can look so real.
This new exhibit and others help visitors appreciate nature's beauty and the relationship between creatures and habitat. Children will find doors to lift, buttons to push and levers to pull that connect their curiosity with nature. They reveal hidden creatures or activate short videos.
"We've got a lot of bright new colors and updates to exhibits," said Lisa LaCombe, Burr Oak Woods manager.
A forest display lets visitors find discoveries on the forest floor. Panels explain the stages and growth of a forest.
A giant model of a red-bellied woodpecker is taller than most kids. On one side are the woodpecker's normal colors, while on the other the skeleton and internal organs are exposed. Visitors can push a button and a bone or organ will light up, and near the button is an explanation of how parts like wing bones function. One pull on a lever makes the woodpecker reach into a tree trunk with its beak to pull out a termite.
Also interactive in the same area, MDC's exhibits staff has crafted a bird puzzle with large wooden pieces. Fit the right bird into the right shape, and a video comes on showing the species and playing its vocalizations. This display is near a viewing area with large windows overlooking the Center's outdoor wildlife feeders.
"This is great in this room because they can turn around and see the actual birds at our feeders," LaCombe said.
Another forestry display of oak tree species lets visitors see the types of creatures that utilize trees. Push on a bark button and a door opens, perhaps to reveal a hummingbird or a bluebird.
Burr Oak Woods staff will host an open house to celebrate the new exhibits 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. Special tours of the new exhibits will be offered, and refreshments will be served. The Nature Center is at 1401 N.W. Park Road in Blue Springs.
Also, from 2 to 3 p.m., MDC Medial Specialist Dan Zarlenga will present Night Visions, a talk on how he shoots stars and landscapes at night. Zarlenga's night sky photography was featured in the December issue of the Missouri Conservationist magazine.
For more information, call 816-228-3766 or visit mdc.mo.gov/node/280.