Zoological adventure playground in Bochum's zoo and fossil centre – A special kind of fun

Zoological adventure playground in Bochum's zoo and fossil centre –  A special kind of fun

The playground, which extends to 1000 m2, was opened in June 2016 and has become - practically overnight - one of its most popular attractions. "We can look back on 2016 as the most successful year in the almost 85-year history of the zoo. For the first time, we managed to attract more than 300,000 visitors. And it was our zoological adventure playground that, thanks to its remarkable zoological educational concept and its exciting, lovingly crafted play equipment, helped us considerably when it came to achieving this record number of visitors," states zoo director Ralf Slabik with satisfaction. The zoo is continuing to prosper this year as the playground remains a magnet for visitors to this popular family-orientated wildlife centre. This major undertaking is just one among a series of astute modernisation measures that were undertaken last year with the aim of adding to the appeal of the zoo.

Children living in the massive conurbation that characterises the Ruhr district in Germany find themselves increasingly alienated from nature, while many are also excessively inactive and suffer as a consequence from motor impairments. It is this major problem that Bochum zoo aims to counter by means of its interdisciplinary concept. As school head Kerstin Schulze explains: "Every one of the playground features helps the children learn and discover through play and also promotes the development of motor, social, emotional and cognitive abilities in all age groups."

Important elements of the zoological adventure playground are the integrated panels that bear motivating statements such as "I can slide like a penguin, glide like a snake and climb like a monkey". These encourage the children to emulate the activities of the animals housed in the zoo, to put their own skills to the test, improve these where necessary and compare their own performance with that of the animals. This aspect is further underlined by means of the incorporation of enclosures for giant Seychelles tortoises and kea in the playground; these animals provide for direct encounters between humans and animals. This means that children experience the diverseness of nature while playing and learn about the need to preserve the biological diversity of our planet.

The zoological adventure playground is the logical extension of the educational undertakings of the zoo in the field of zoology as new teaching techniques are employed here that facilitate holistic learning by the children as part of their own play activities, revealing the world of animals to them from a new perspective. Hence there are zones that invite the children to linger and observe and others in which relaxing play and the exploration of a quite unique childhood world are possible. The zoological adventure playground is also a venue that serves to bring the various generations together. Exciting adventure sections can be explored together as exercise, play and communication are important attributes of humankind at all age levels. At the same time, freely accessible areas mean that even the disabled can join in the fun, making the playground into a meeting place that promotes inclusion.

Among the special features of the playground is a jungle lodge constructed from exotic tropical plants and nets that forms the centrepiece of the whole complex. Children can undertake exhilarating explorations along various ramp constructions and monkey bar and climbing sections to its three large outlook towers. There is a long tube slide that inspires them to take a fast-paced trip back to the ground.

Further highlights are the two sand play areas 'oriental marketplace' and 'desert construction site'. A backdrop reminiscent of an Arabic bazaar encourages role play. There is a dinosaur skeleton buried in the sand that takes up the theme of the fossils housed in the neighbouring aquarium and terrarium. The 'desert construction site' has been specifically designed for children under the age of 3 years. All the building materials are tailored to the needs and abilities of this age group. The two sand play areas are crossed by a long bridge - the turtle path. A wobbly hanging bridge must first be negotiated before visitors reach a viewing platform that provides them with an impressive overview of the enclosure of the giant Seychelles tortoises.

A fishing village has been constructed in the eastern section of the playground. Here there is a water landscape made of coloured rubber granules from which emerge poles linked together to form an impressive obstacle path. Nets, narrow beams, twisted ropes and a large snake head need to be overcome to reach the goal. In this location can also be found the entrance to a unique playhouse. This igloo-like structure made of shotcrete is not unlike a hobbit hole and is sited in the centre of the kea enclosure. A large panoramic window provides those inside with extensive views of the aviary of the New Zealand parrots that will very soon be at home here. There are interactive learning pods that provide interesting information on these intelligent and playful birds and on other representatives of New Zealand's extraordinary fauna.

The planning of the playground was begun as far back as 2014! On an area of 1000 m2, a colourful and inventive play world has been created that will delight older and younger children. The construction work was undertaken by the tender syndicate spielart GmbH based in Laucha, X-Move GmbH of Stockstadt a.M. and Proelan of Bochum. The main sponsor of this €650,000 project was the Sparkasse Bochum bank, which contributed €411,000 of this sum. Of this, €122.000 came from the charitable income generated by the 'savings lottery' programme of the bank. The school hostel association of Bochum also contributed €239,000 towards the project. Following the sale of the school hostel in Winterberg three years ago, the board decided to donate the proceeds to charity.

 

More information: www.tierpark-bochum.de

 

Image: C. Hoppe, TPBO

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