(Madison, WI): Very exciting news… The Madison Children’s Museum has unveiled its newest exhibit, the ‘Nice Age Trail,’ designed to inspire empathy, mindfulness, and a deep connection with nature. Situated in the Capitol Point area on the museum’s second floor, the Nice Age Trail draws inspiration from Wisconsin’s famous Ice Age Trail and creatively merges the wonders of nature with the essence of kindness.

Madison Children’s Museum June 11, 2024. (Photo © Andy Manis)

**This post is in partnership with the Madison Children’s Museum

An Interactive Nature Experience

The Nice Age Trail invites children to explore four Wisconsin seasons across four distinct habitats, each teaming with the life of animals native to the region. The journey through the exhibit transforms kids into various animals through costumes and immersive interactions with their habitats. This approach not only makes learning fun but also instills a sense of empathy and respect for the natural world.

Visitors can snuggle up in a life-sized bear cave, listening to the soft snores of a bear and helping baby bears drift to sleep. Children can also read a custom storybook inside the cave, fostering a love for storytelling and nature. The beaver lodge offers a dynamic space for kids to climb, build, “swim,” and slide, mimicking the industrious nature of beavers. In the giant beehive, children can collect pollen, raise baby bees, and clamber through the intricate structure, learning about the critical role bees play in our ecosystem. Even the youngest visitors are catered to, with a giant crane’s nest where babies can crawl and roll, watched over by life-sized sandhill cranes and their parents.

The ABCs of Kindness

Central to the Nice Age Trail is the ABCs of Kindness, an innovative approach to teaching empathy and mindfulness. This concept, initially developed by Dr. Richard Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds at UW–Madison for words A–G, has been expanded by the museum’s exhibits team to encompass the entire alphabet. Each letter represents a word associated with kindness, accompanied by activities for children and contextual information for adults. This educational aspect encourages children to understand and practice empathy, not only towards animals but also towards other people and themselves.

Commitment to Sustainability

The Nice Age Trail exemplifies the museum’s commitment to sustainability, from its conceptualization and construction to its eventual decommissioning. The beaver lodge is a prime example, constructed from natural materials like hand-dug clay, straw, sand, and beaver-chewed branches. This use of local, sustainable materials ensures a low carbon footprint and a safe, chemical-free environment for children. Additionally, when the exhibit is retired, most of its components are biodegradable, emphasizing the museum’s dedication to environmentally friendly practices.

Part of the Caretakers of Wonder Project

The Nice Age Trail is part of the broader Caretakers of Wonder project, a national initiative aimed at addressing the impact of climate change on young children’s lives. The Madison Children’s Museum leads this project, collaborating with nine other museums and science centers, as well as experts in neuroscience, climate science, equity, and early childhood nature education. The goal is to create exhibits, activities, and programs that foster joy, empathy, and a connection with nature. This collaborative effort aims to produce a toolkit that can be used by museums and organizations worldwide to replicate these impactful experiences.

More than just an exhibit

The Nice Age Trail at the Madison Children’s Museum is more than just an exhibit; it is a vibrant, interactive journey that teaches children about kindness, empathy, and sustainability. By immersing themselves in the lives of animals and the beauty of Wisconsin’s natural habitats, children learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of all living things. This innovative exhibit not only provides a fun and educational experience but also fosters a generation of environmentally conscious and empathetic individuals. The Nice Age Trail is a testament to the museum’s commitment to nurturing the minds and hearts of young visitors, making it a must-visit destination for families in the area!

Madison Children’s Museum | Location + Membership

100 N. Hamilton Street, Madison, WI | Website

With a family membership – you can play for free every time you visit, plus more!  Membership is more than just a year of unlimited admission to a world-class museum: It’s your family’s invitation to members-only parties, exclusive events, exciting classes, special discounts, and more.

It pays for itself after just a couple visits and also offers reciprocal benefits with museums throughout the United States!

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