New to the Zoo: Nature Play!

The Virginia Zoo is excited to announce the addition of a Nature Play area, to open this summer on Zoo grounds. The Zoo was awarded several grants from local organizations, including a $25,000 grant from the Rotary District 7600, Norfolk Rotary Charities, Inc., Norfolk Sunrise Rotary, and the Virginia Beach Rotary Club Foundation. Other donations for the project have come from Wells Fargo and Target.

Nature Play is unstructured and informal play that incorporates the natural and surrounding landscape and vegetation to bring nature to children’s daily outdoor play and learning environments. It is proven to powerfully boost the cognitive, creative, physical, social and emotional development of children.

“The Virginia Zoo is committed to building the experience of nature into childhood,” said Greg Bockheim, Executive Director of the Virginia Zoo. “We aim to promote and strengthen children’s outdoor learning experiences to help the next generation become more environmentally minded and move the future in a more sustainable direction.”

“As Rotarians, we continually seek ways to improve quality of life for people living near us, and around the world,” added Rotary Club of Norfolk President Pamela Tubbs. “We recognized Nature Play as a wonderful community service project in which we could invest not only money, but ongoing volunteer support.”

The nearly one-acre play area will be located near the Zoo’s Flora Point section of the park. Nature Play will feature tree stumps and pieces to be used as climbing, walking, and jumping structures, as well as a sandbox for digging, a sensory walk, willow tunnel and a bamboo maze. In addition to being open to the public daily for free-play, the area will be utilized for informal, free programming from the Education Department.

New bathrooms, which have been donated from the City of Norfolk, have also been installed and will open this Spring. The Zoo will host a Family Volunteer Day on May 4 where volunteers can assist with a variety of projects, including constructing aspects of the play area. For more information on the Family Volunteer Day visit,