Roger Williams Park Zoo Opens an Outdoor Play and Nature Exploration Area

Roger Williams Park Zoo Opens an Outdoor Play and Nature Exploration Area

Features Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard and the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Treehouse

Providence, RI— Today at Roger Williams Park Zoo, the ribbon was cut at the opening of Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard, an outdoor play and nature exploration area for children and their families. The innovative play space was funded in part by a lead grant from the Hasbro Children’s Fund, the grant-making arm of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS). A fully accessible Treehouse For All, a major component of the new play space, was funded by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a program of the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust and CVS Caremark, committed to supporting children of all abilities. Additional funding was provided by The Champlin Foundations, The Rhode Island Foundation,  individual donors and from state general obligation bonds approved by Rhode Island voters in 2006.


“Roger Williams Park Zoo continues to be one of Providence’s greatest treasurers and a much loved educational and recreational resource for our city residents and for the state and region as a whole,” said Mayor Angel Taveras. “The opening of Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard and the CVS Caremark Tree House serves to make our great zoo even better, especially for our children.”


Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard features three major exhibit components. Our House includes an indoor activity space and The Nature Swap, a place for children to trade items that they have collected while out exploring nature. Our Backyard, the ultimate outdoor play space, is staffed by specially trained Play Partner volunteers to help kids make the most of the “The Drip Drop Water Garden,” “The Sticks & Stones Building Zone,” and the “Creativity Corner.” By venturing through a “hole” in the backyard fence, zoo visitors will find themselves Beyond the Fence where children are encouraged to play and explore along a nature trail. At the end of the trail they will reach the tree house which is packed with interactive play features to touch, hear, smell, and see.


The exhibit will be enhanced in 2014, when a New England animal collection featuring river otters is added.  The Zoo is actively fundraising for this addition and has received lead gifts from The Champlin Foundations, Fidelity Foundation, The Providence Journal and numerous individuals.


“This exhibit was designed to give our guests, and especially young children and their families, greater appreciation for outdoor play, nature and wildlife here in New England,” said Zoo Executive Director Jack Mulvena. “Equally important, we hope the exhibit experience acts as a bridge to encourage families to get outside and experience the many amazing opportunities for nature exploration right here in Rhode Island and throughout New England.  We believe this to be so important for children’s health, learning and development.” 


The exhibit design was developed after benchmarking zoos that have already created similar exhibits, including Brookfield Zoo’s Hamill Family Play Zoo in Chicago and Kronkosky’s Tiny Tot Nature Spot at the San Antonio Zoo, and in consultation with Hasbro staff members who volunteered their expertise on how children play.  


“Hasbro is thrilled to work with Roger Williams Park Zoo to help children in our region learn more about nature and the wildlife all around them by tapping into the power of play,” said Brian Goldner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pawtucket, RI based Hasbro, Inc.  “This innovative new exhibit immerses kids into an interactive experience that blends hands on learning with fun.”


Hasbro has a long history of giving back in communities where its employees live, helping to make a difference for over four million children worldwide in 2011, including over $3 million to assist Rhode Island children in need through product and financial support.  Hasbro’s philanthropic work strives to bring “the sparkle of Hope, the joy of Play and the power of Service” into the lives of the children who need it most.


The exhibit’s interactive play centerpiece is the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Treehouse. “Our goal with All Kids Can is to help children of all abilities to be the best that they can be.  Outdoor play areas like this one have a real impact on a child’s physical and emotional development and we’re thrilled to create an environment that encourages all children within the community to learn and play with one another,” said Larry Merlo, President & CEO of CVS Caremark.  “We’re excited to celebrate the opening of this accessible Treehouse and are proud to partner with Roger Williams Park Zoo to provide a unique experience for children across New England.”


Hasbro’s Our Big Backyard is the third major project completed as part of the Zoo’s Master Plan announced in 2006. Fabric of Africa was completed in 2008, and the John J. Palumbo Veterinary Hospital opened in 2010.


About Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the nation, is one of Rhode Island’s leading outdoor family and tourist attractions. The Zoo has received numerous national awards for conservation done locally and around the world and is the state’s leading resource for environmental education.  Roger Williams Park Zoo is managed and supported by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and owned by the City of Providence.



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