While every area of our Zoo is designed to be child-friendly, our Paws On loop was specifically created with kids in mind. With a variety of hands-on activities, the loop can become busy with kiddos running from the Upland Acres play area to the Barnyard to taking a splash in the Indian River Play Lagoon. For anyone, adults included, this environment can be a little overstimulating at times. This is exactly why a subtle addition has been added to the loop; one that will have a big impact on the experience of children of all ages. A new sensory pathway can now be found on the fencing after the Play Lagoon entrance.
A sensory pathway is a tool that incorporates different sensory components, such as touch and movement. Ours encourages visitors to jump and wiggle, and even boasts some pretty cool stingray facts. Complete with ridged seashells, smooth tiles and bumpy stones, anyone can satisfy their tactile desires at this station.
The sensory pathway works to help children, especially those with sensory sensitivities, when they feel overstimulated in a high-sensory environment, such as our Zoo. Touch and movement can help kids re-focus their attention instead of becoming overwhelmed by the crowds or loud noises.
Camryn Hale, a Brevard Zoo Intern and current University of Florida student in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, was the change-maker responsible for implementing the sensory pathway – a place she says is great for kids to take a “brain break” in the bustling area.
Camryn says, “The main goal for this occupational therapy project was to provide an interactive sensory experience within the Zoo that is accessible and easy to find…. The sensory pathway along the fence can help children regulate their emotions, process the sensory stimuli around them, and have a healthy outlet to cope with stress and overwhelming feelings.”
Our sensory pathway is not unique to us. Many other zoos, schools, and museums implement similar designs. However, ours uniquely features facts and artwork relating to lagoon animals, which adds to the overall Paws On theme.
For those who have become fans of Camryn’s recent work, you’ll be pleased to know she has lots of other projects on deck. She has plans to add sensory symbols to Zoo maps, create immersive sensory training for staff members, make sensory guides that analyze the sensory experiences within the Zoo, and much more. Overall, her work will help lead to a more inclusive environment, and we couldn’t be more excited.
For those interested, you can soon find these upcoming guides on the Zoo’s accessibility webpage, https://brevardzoo.org/accessibility/.
Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.