CHILDREN’S DISCOVERY AREA
The Waco Mammoth Foundation is pleased to share the original Dream of the Waco Mammoth National Monument — The Children’s Discovery Area.
As described in the original Concept Design report, the Children’s Discovery Area CDA will incorporate a large component into the existing Master Plan. As a result of the completion of Phase One, which included the designation of Waco Mammoth National Monument as a national park, visitors will reap the benefits a National Park Service experience. Interpretive displays, educational environments, special events, accessible design, plus many other features, allow guests to take away a greater appreciation of the monument, while giving them a more complete experience.
On July 10, 2015, the Waco Mammoth National Monument became part of the National Park Service NPS in partnership with the City of Waco and Baylor University. This partnership is designed to “preserve and interpret the discovery site of an exceptionally well-preserved herd of Columbian mammoths and other Pleistocene-Epoch animals.” The NPS designation is the result of forty years of scientific research as well as support from the local community.
Concept Design Elements
One goal of the Children’s Discovery Area is to make it thematic with several areas of interest to create an environment worthy of repeat visits. Multi-layered. Multi-dimensional. Interactive. The primary target group will serve children ages 4 to 12. Meeting all standards for public play areas are required. All exhibits will also support the established Mammoth Center goals.
At the core of the CDA is a Central Boardwalk and Overlook that provides orientation, interpretation and parent seating from an elevated viewpoint. It is located to take advantage of the shade provided by the existing mature live oak trees that were native to the Pleistocene era and is accessed along the major circulation loop. The overlook character is reminiscent of the original dig site catwalk and scaffolding that allowed paleontologists to excavate and access various portions of the dig. One of the elements interpreted from the railing and overlook is a large soil column like those still present at the dig site. The column extends from this upper elevation to the base of the recreated dig site below. Within the column is visible a fossil artifact just as it was found by the two young men who first discovered the original dig site along its ancient river bank.
The dig site below the overlook contains many of the key species found at the excavation site and present during the Pleistocene era. They are represented as both fully and partially excavated skeletal remains. Also present for hands on learning are replicated soil strata and sediment columns like the ones studied by paleontologists to properly date the fossil remains. An outdoor classroom node with interactive display board is centrally located to this lower level for use by small tour and school groups. Megafauna depicted here include both adult and juvenile Columbian mammoths, the sloth, the saber tooth cat and the tortoise. These playful elements are sized to match the appropriate scale, bone position and context of the actual dig site finds. Connecting the fossil finds are stepping blocks similar to the ones used by paleontologists at the actual dig site shelter to protect buried elements. Children can playfully navigate across the site from one fossil find to another using these stepping blocks. At the outdoor classroom they also double as informal seating and are patterned in a semicircle to provide a visual example of mammoth herd defensive posturing.
ADULT & JUVENILE
Visible from the interpretive overlook and the outdoor classroom are the skeletal remains of the largest of the megafauna found on the site, the adult Columbian Mammoth. The resting position of the adult mammoth includes a set of tusks low to the ground and adjacent to the juvenile mammoth specimen. Children interacting with this fossil element can lay in the tusks to play the role of the juvenile that scientists theorized was being lifted to safety. This interactive role playing, tactile and spatial interaction with the skeletal remains and physical context of a recreated dig site creates a playful interactive learning environment for the visitor.
(SABER TOOTH CAT)
The smilodon, or saber tooth cat, is located at the upper elevation at a secret landing and is positioned in a predatory posture facing the juvenile mammoth below. The relationship and context of predator and prey are part of the educational message that visitors learn about at the dig site. Here the scale and form of the animal are represented as it might have looked many years ago. The cat can be seen from the lower megafauna discovery site below and also from across the overlook. The secret landing can only be accessed from the overlook rope bridge and once they arrive at this sculpture, children can role play as a predator would from the upper vantage point and then make the traverse down to the dig site using a sliding pole near the saber tooth cat.
The sloth remains are partially excavated and embedded within a recreated soil and stratification column made from decorative colored concrete. Here multiple fossil elements are located within vertical layers of the stratified soil. The relative depth of the fossil finds can be measured and compared to one another and to other fossils in lower dig site. The educational objective of relating the depth of the find to the age of the fossils correlates to the actual dig site. Sloth remains are partially excavated and embedded within a recreated soil and stratification column made from decorative colored concrete. Here multiple fossil elements are located within vertical layers of the stratified soil. The relative depth of the fossil finds can be measured and compared to one another and to other fossils in lower dig site. The educational objective of relating the depth of the find to the age of the fossils correlates to the actual dig site.
These design elements are critical to the message Waco Mammoth National Monument Children’s Discovery Area hopes to communicate. Learning about the history of humans, animals, and the planet in general help us gain a greater understanding of how to become better stewards of the world we live in now.
Be a part of this important project as well as all projects needed by park staff to grow this fabulous part of Waco and surrounding areas.