Nature’s Place beaver exhibit makes learning fun
By Sue Tiffin
After spending time at a new interactive exhibition devoted to beavers in Nature’s Place, Minden’s nature interpretive centre, children and their families will leave knowing a lot more about the ecosystem engineers and their importance to our environment.
“This is what we want to emphasize about them, that they are the creators of the wetlands, resulting in biodiverse habitats,” said Laurie Carmount, Minden Hills Cultural Centre curator. “That is absolutely the most critical thing about beavers, we just cannot emphasize and underline it enough. To change people’s attitude about beavers is really important. If you want fresh water and you want wetlands ... People [will say], oh, it’s a rodent and there are so many of them around and they’re going to flood your place. Yes, they’re going to take down 200 trees, but there’s a reason why they’re doing that, and we should realize that we have to accommodate them and not the other way around, because they’re going to bring about what we need.”
At the first station in the exhibition, visitors can actually role-play as beavers, crafting a face mask and tail costume out of materials they can wear as they play and learn. After transforming into the rodent – among the largest in the world, often weighing more than small children themselves – kids can climb into a beaver lodge, constructed by Carmount, Mike Stamp and local artist Chris Hanson.
“The people in the community are super great, everyone has come forward periodically and said, we have to do this, or we have to try that,” said Carmount. “It’s totally what we needed to bring this all together.”
Inside the lodge, kids-turned-beavers can explore with sticks, a furry beaver puppet, and watch short videos on the beaver that are also projected on a wall outside the lodge for adults to take in.
“The films are really good because they’re simplistic, but they really get the sense from that as to how important [beavers] are,” said Carmount.
Carmount is visibly excited about the exhibition and what it offers, and has carefully thought out details surrounding the lodge that include a display featuring R.D. Lawrence’s book, Paddy, a story about the naturalist author’s experiences raising an orphan beaver, as well as original sketches of Lawrence’s; a leather tail that mimics the warning sound created by a beaver’s tail when it slaps on the water’s surface; and the sound of running water that motivates beavers to work. A model beaver dam kit activity offers visitors the chance to try to recreate what a beaver does to hold water back, similar to when the turtle exhibition kept kids busy with a tunnel building station.
“We’re trying to make it as interactive as possible, because we’ve come to realize computers are not the thing,” said Carmount. “Kids are not interested so much in doing everything with computers, which everyone thought would be the case. They love interactive. Something where you’re making, putting together, building ... we had the turtle tunnels here, they’d be there forever. They wouldn’t even look at the iPads. The iPads didn’t matter to them, they have them everywhere, but building a turtle tunnel, oh yeah.”
“It’s 100 per cent interactive, the kids can be in there, hopefully they’ll learn some aspect of it when they walk away,” said Carmount.
Nature’s Place also showcases exhibitions for children and adults alike on the issues facing bees, turtles and bats; global food issues and how they affect us locally; a mineral display and an augmented reality hands-on sandbox, as well as an upcoming display on activist Greta Thunberg’s advocacy for action to combat climate change.
Nature’s Place nature interpretive centre is located at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre at 176 Bobcaygeon Road, and is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is by donation.