By CINDY LADAGE
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Along Lake Springfield’s Center Park there is a small zoo that boasts animals from Australia, Africa, Asia and North and South America. The museum houses more than 90 species of native and exotic animals – but the barnyard animals on display pull at the heartstrings and bring children running.
Animals from North America include the horse, Sicilian donkey, donkey, pygmy goat, fainting goat, great horned owl, barn owl, turkey vulture, barred owl, bald eagle, wolverine, red wolf, painted box turtle, cougar, bobcat, river otter and alligator.
The zoo, besides being a place where the young and young at heart can stretch their imagination, is a place to learn. It offers educational opportunities for children, such as Zoo Tot classes for ages 2 and up. Each class includes stories, animal visits, crafts, games and more. Examples of other classes for little ones include Something’s Fishy, Alligaterrific, Hold Your Horses, Deer Friend, Animal ABC’s and Animal 123’s. For the 5- to 9-year-olds, there are Zooper Adventures classes Saturdays from 1-3 p.m., filled with theme games, crafts, a zoo discovery walk and fun learning.
Older children in the 10-12 range may be part of the H.O.W.L. program, which stands for Helping Out Wild Life. Students create and help present enrichment items to enhance the zoo animals’ lives and stimulate new behaviors. Project H.O.W.L. is on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. The H.O.W.L. group courses offered includes Operation Otter, Horsing Around, Goofing Around with Goats and Fun with Ferrets.
Courses do not offer a chance to play with animals. The Henson Robinson Zoo is at 1100 East Lake Shore Dr., Springfield, IL 62712. Call 217-753-6217 or visit www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org for details.