A Zoo Within the Zoo
In another zoo first, Kids' Farm has a recreation site for young visitors -- the pizza play area and garden. Youngsters can pick up, crawl through or slide down various vegetarian, rubberized pizza toppings. There is also a real vegetable garden with tomatoes, corn, wheat and thyme, and children will learn how to make pizza sauce and how a cow's milk becomes cheese.
The idea, said zoo spokeswoman Peper Long, is to show youngsters that pizza and other food items don't just land in their lunchboxes. But given the target audience of 3- to 8-year-olds, the zoo has steered clear of discussing how chickens, cows and other farm animals end up on dinner plates.
"We're not describing the whole process," Long said. "It's an educational exhibit, but [it's] not designed to overwhelm."
The zoo has taken precautions to guard against predators and discourage rodents, extending wire fencing into the ground and using rodent-proof screening material. The animals will be out in yards during the day, then brought inside at night.
The zoo also has designed the exhibit to be environmentally friendly, with state-of-the-art water retention ponds to avoid runoff into Rock Creek. Recycled plastic was used to build a boardwalk through the farm.
The complex has 62 animals: 10 mammals and 52 birds, including some, such as Dominique chickens, that can be traced to Colonial times.
Kids' Farm received additional support from Giant Food, which raised $9,400 for the exhibit's public education programs by encouraging shoppers to make $1, $3 or $5 contributions last month while paying for groceries.
The farm will be overseen by staff members, horticulturists and volunteers. More volunteers are needed to answer visitor questions and supervise the Caring Corral. For information, call 202-673-4874 or see the Friends of the National Zoo Web site at www.fonz.org.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Emily Carson, 9, explores the Kids' Farm recreation site, where visitors can play among rubberized pizza toppings.
(Photos Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)