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Kids Learn About Conservation at Field Museum

Sep 30, 2021 ● By Anna Marie Imbordino
Three kids interacting at the Field Museum with an art piece

Photo Credit ©Field Museum, photo by Morgan Anderson

As conservation-related issues across the globe continue to make mainstream news, parents of young children are finding themselves unsure how to educate them on these important, but sometimes scary healthy living topics. Chicagoland parents may also find themselves responding to changing school curriculums as their children come home with knowledge on topics like energy consumption, global weather changes, water and food safety, and other conservation issues of which parents may not have a detailed knowledge. The need for parent-driven education about conservation and home consumption habits has inspired Chicago families to search for easy, tangible resources and experiences to help bridge these sometimes hard-to-start conversations.

Celebrating its centennial year in an iconic building in Chicago’s Grant Park, the Field Museum offers local and visiting families numerous onsite and offsite opportunities to teach children about conservation. Since its 1893 founding as a permanent extension of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the museum has grown to nearly 40 million artifacts and specimens, in addition to their extensive work in local and global conservation efforts.

“At the Field Museum, our approach to conservation is based on working with people to understand their communities and what contributes to their quality of life. This focus on quality of life and health are central to how we engage folks in conservation work,” shares Erika Hasle, conservation ecologist at the museum.

Taking their vision to heart, families visiting the museum campus can use areas like the Rice Native Gardens to educate children about local issues and native habitats. They were designed to share the benefits and beauty of native wildlife while addressing sustainable concerns and landscaping practices traditionally associated with the building. “This project is exciting because it proves that native gardens can be planted around Chicago homes, schools and accompany formal architectural styles,” explains Carter O’Brien, sustainability officer for the museum’s Keller Science Action Center. The Rice Native Gardens can be enjoyed in conjunction with the museum’s extensive resource guide collection, found onsite as well as online.

Families can also explore global conservation-focused exhibits like the Abbott Hall of Conservation: Restoring Earth. Included with basic museum admission, it offers families engagement with topics like climate change, biodiversity, culture and more through the collaborative work of staff scientists and curators working globally and in the Chicago region. “Restoring Earth is an exhibit that focuses on the spirit of optimism that people anywhere can plug in and make a difference towards these global issues.” says O’Brien, who explains that exhibits are just part of the conservation conversation happening at the Field Museum.

For families looking to explore offsite resources, the Burnham Wildlife Corridor connects families to locally driven conservation work. Roots and Routes is a collaborative project presented by the Chicago Park District and the Field Museum that works with teams of local artists and community-based organizations to create recreation spaces and renewed habitat. The Burnham Wildlife Corridor showcases five unique “gathering spaces” curated by teams of local artists and community-based organizations from Chinatown, Bronzeville, Pilsen and other surrounding neighborhoods. These five spaces, entitled Sankofa for the Earth, Sounding Bronzeville, Caracol, La Ronda Paraketa and Set in Stone, each share an important story that connects to its neighborhood.

Whether museum visitors are enjoying primitive art and other artifacts on display, or exploring projects like the gathering spaces along the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, museum curators hope art inspires a strong connection to these topics. “Art is very much part of nature and how we experience the natural world. Some of our earliest art depicts the ways in which humans interacted with nature and animals. You can see this throughout our exhibitions, such as Ancient Americas,” Hasle shares.

O’Brien, Hasle and the team at the Field Museum hope families continue to see the museum as a space for creativity in learning, and an easy and fun way to bridge topics like conservation and anthropology. The Field Museum team continues to develop programs, events, exhibits and online resources that allow children to lead their own journey and encourage families to visit their website for more information.

Anna Marie Imbordino is a writer, award-winning publicist and environmentalist based in Chicago and Charleston, SC. Connect on social media by following @teawiththebee.