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New Springs Preserve exhibit encourages backyard exploration

A world of natural wonder awaits those willing to take the steps to explore it. But don’t be intimidated; it’s literally only a couple of steps.

A new exhibit at the Springs Preserve encourages people to walk outside and rediscover the beauty outside their back door. The “Backyard Adventures” interactive exhibit runs through Jan. 12 and blends science, math and technology lessons and concepts in an easily digestible environment for its patrons: their backyard.

Sixteen games and hands-on displays introduce children and remind their parents of how the world around them works, Springs Preserve assistant curator Emmi Saunders said.

“I think we get so stuck in our routines sometimes, too,” Saunders said. “We go to work — there’s a lot of screen time right now. I think it’s just a nice little reminder for people to pause for a second and maybe consider their immediate environment right around them through different eyes, either their own or other creatures that might live back there.”

One display does exactly that: peer through a virtual reality lens that simulates a dog’s focused vision that can’t see red or green or a bee’s capability to see ultraviolet. It’s right next to the place where kids can explore shapes, angles and math by building their own patio with faux tiles.

For Saunders, the beauty of the interactive exhibit lies in its varied lessons and concepts taught through simple games and experiences rather than an over-saturation of text and information.

“It’s just letting them explore these ideas without having to feel like there’s gonna be a test at the end,” she said.

Stroll through the “shed” and use a night vision camera to discover the nocturnal animals like eastern cottontail rabbits, barn owls and raccoons that commonly call neighborhoods home.

Grab a blueprint for how to build a derby car or a birdhouse in your own backyard.

Buzz on the back of a bee through a virtual garden or putt your way through the unconventional garden golf course.

Inside of a house-shaped display, a 2-year-old boy ran his fingers through a mound of recycled rubber “sand” in a topography tub that used an XBOX Kinect to measure and project colors conforming to its shape. It teaches kids geography in a colorful way that’s easy to understand, Saunders said.

Saunders thinks people can take their surroundings for granted, like those who’ve lived in Las Vegas for years and have grown accustomed to seeing the mountains encompassing the valley. Saunders, watching the 2-year-old boy giggle while building a rubber mountain in the tub, said interactive displays break down the barriers between theory and reality.

“He’s doing science and he doesn’t even know it,” Saunders said.

The exhibit finds creative ways to get kids to interact with their world in a new way, said Dawn Barraclough, spokeswoman for the preserve.

“I think it really gives children an interesting way to interact and sort of have an experience inside that they can transfer outside,” she said.

Contact Mike Shoro at [email protected] or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

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