New Watershed Exhibit at Henry Vilas Zoo

The zoo has a new exhibit! While it may not be as breathtaking as a polar bear, we are still pretty excited about it!

The new attraction is an interactive watershed model that lets children (and children at heart!) explore and create their own landscapes and water flows. In a sandbox, you can design your own topography of hills, mountains, rivers and plains. A computer sensor above the box analyzes your creation and projects light indicating what is land and what is water. When you wave your hand above the box, the computer generates a storm on your landscape and shows you how the rain water would flow through it.

This interactive model is a great way to show the community how watersheds work and reinforce the idea that water connects us all. It can be difficult to describe to people what a watershed is and why it is so important. It seems simple to say that rain flows downhill and collects in a body of water. What’s difficult to capture is the community that is created within a watershed. This tool will help children visualize how what we do to water in one area can genuinely impact places near and far.

We are so pleased that this new exhibit will get people thinking about the importance of the zoo’s home watershed – Wingra. By preserving local waterways, we contribute to the health and wellbeing of all the plants, animals, and even people who live within the watershed boundaries. The sign that accompanies the new exhibit even explains how tiny watersheds, like Wingra, are located within larger ones, like Yahara. When we start to think about water in terms of watersheds, the world becomes smaller and more connected.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, be sure you make it to the zoo soon! The watershed model is located in the Discovery Center and is sure to provide you and the kids with a fun and educational experience.

-By Adrienne Marvin

Image: In the interactive watershed sandbox blue indicates bodies of water; green indicates low elevations and the color transitions from yellow to orange as the elevation increases., Image by: Casey Hanson