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Open Wed–Sun 9am–4pm, plus late on Thur til 8pm. • Get tickets.

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Grand Opening June 1 & 2, 2024

Buzz like a bee, dance like a crane, build like a beaver, and snuggle like a bear in the Nice Age Trail. Inspired by nature and designed to teach kindness, this interactive exhibit invites kids to explore four Wisconsin seasons across four habitats—and the world of the animals who live there.

The Nice Age Trail (whose name is derived from Wisconsin’s iconic Ice Age Trail) is located in the Capitol Point area of the museum’s second floor.

Exploring with Animals

While journeying through the Nice Age Trail, kids imagine themselves transformed into animals through costumes and interaction with fantastical interpretations of those animals’ native habitats.

Snuggle up to a bear and listen to her snoring breaths, help put the baby bears to sleep, and read a custom storybook in a life-sized bear cave. Climb, build, “swim,” and slide through a life-sized beaver lodge. Collect pollen, raise baby bees, and clamber through a giant beehive. There’s even something for the youngest visitors, as babies can crawl or roll around in a giant-sized crane’s nest, while their parents—and life-sized sandhill cranes—look on.

Playing pretend as an animal isn’t just fun; it helps builds empathy. The Nice Age Trail is designed to encourage children to connect with nature; to experience the interconnectedness of all living things; and to practice kindness—to animals, nature, other people, and themselves.

More about the Nice Age Trail

The ABCs of Kindness

In the Nice Age Trail, kids encounter 26 words from A to Z corresponding to concepts teaching empathy, mindfulness, and connection with nature. Our ABCs of Kindness is an expansion of the concept originally developed by Dr. Richard Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds at UW–Madison for words A–G. Our exhibits team expanded on that work and completed the alphabet. Each word is accompanied by activities for kids and contextual information for adults. 

Sustainability in the Nice Age Trail

Sustainability is a key part of the Nice Age Trail, from concept and construction, through the life of the exhibit, and even when it is retired from use.

The beaver lodge is a great example of how our team incorporates natural and sustainable materials into exhibit design. The base of the beaver lodge is made from natural materials, including clay that staff dug by hand, and mixed with straw, sand, and other natural components. It’s naturally sturdy and can be repaired easily. Dozens of actual beaver-chewed branches and logs form the upper structure. Local, natural components mean a low carbon footprint. Natural materials mean kids aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals or microplastics as they play. And when the exhibit is over, years from now, almost all of it is biodegradable.

Creating sustainable exhibits out of local, natural components is good for the planet. And it’s good for the health of kids, immediately and into the future.

A Caretakers of Wonder Project

The Nice Age Trail is a local result of the national Caretakers of Wonder project. Caretakers of Wonder creates an innovative, research-based approach that museums can use to meet the growing threat of climate change on young children’s lives. Led by MCM, nine museums and science centers are collaborating with experts in neuroscience, climate science, equity, and early childhood nature education to create exhibits, activities, or programs that foster joy, empathy, and connections with nature. Based on these experiences we are in the process of creating a toolkit for museums and others around the world to do similar work.

Thank you to our supporters!

Anonymous
Peggy
& Tom Pyle
Jessica & Jim Yehle
Darcy Kind
& Marc Vitale
Veridian Homes
Foundation
Matthew & Katie
Premo
Dane Arts
Kyle & Chrissy
Amend
Michael & Monique
Banas
Anne Forbes
& James Lorman
Future Foam
PASS Family Fund
Katherine & Michael
Pinkert
Gaida & Robert
Vickerman
The Young Family
We also thank the 16 other households and organization who
supported the Nice Age Trail with gifts less than $1,000.
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