SOURCE: Denver Zoo

September 16, 2015 14:12 ET

Denver Zoo Receives Association of Zoos and Aquariums Grant for Education Program

Grant to Encourage Nature Play and Develop Age-Appropriate Science Skills for Young Children

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - September 16, 2015) - Denver Zoo has been named a recipient of a $5,000 "Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo & Aquarium" grant by The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for the Zoo's Nurturing Scientists through Nature Play program. The educational program is designed to encourage nature play and develop age-appropriate science skills for young children. Supported through a special gift from the Disney Conservation Fund, the "Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo & Aquarium" grants are very competitive and recipients are selected through a rigorous review by a panel of industry experts. They are being presented to AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to encourage family nature play and conservation education.

"We are honored to be a recipient of this grant because it supports our efforts to be a destination where learning comes alive as we inspire the next generation of scientists, conservationists and biologists," says Director of Learning Experiences Angela Barber. "Denver Zoo staff is continually thinking of creative and innovative ways to inspire a connection with animals and love of science through engaging and age-appropriate programs. Exploring nature and first science concepts through play is the best way for young children to learn."

Denver Zoo's Nurturing Scientists through Nature Play program has three target audiences: underserved preschool children ages 3-5, their caregivers and their teachers. The Zoo is partnering with Clayton Early Learning, an early childhood education center close to the Zoo recognized as a Colorado leader in early care and education, especially to those of limited opportunity. The program is designed to encourage nature play and develop age-appropriate science skills such as questioning and wondering (inquiry), and trying things to see what happens (experimentation). The program transcends the typical Zoo visit, immersing children in natural areas at the Zoo and at their school. Participating children will be encouraged to explore, interact with animals and practice science skills that will help them view the Zoo and their neighborhood in new ways.

"AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are centers of conservation, dedicated to connecting communities to nature. These grants help to continue building those initiatives," said Jim Maddy, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. "By providing opportunities for families to spend time with one another and to explore nature in new and fun ways, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums play a key role in educating visitors about protecting our earth and inspiring the next generation of conservationists."

The Nature Play grants provide financial, logistical and creative support for zoos and aquariums seeking to increase or enhance family-centered nature experiences in their communities. As part of this initiative, AZA offered the grant opportunity to AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. This program is a partnership with the Children & Nature Network, building on their successful Family Nature Club initiative.

The grant awards were made available to extend existing family-based nature play programming or to create new, innovative, and engaging programs.

The Nature Clubs Advisory Group, which served as the review committee for the Nature Play grants, is comprised of AZA members, AZA staff and Disney cast members, as well as partners from the Children & Nature Network and the North American Association for Environmental Education.

For additional information, please visit

About Denver Zoo: Denver Zoo brings education alive, providing a unique learning experience that sparks an interest in the natural world for visitors and program participants alike. Home to 4,300 animals representing more than 600 species, the Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which assures the highest standards of animal care.

A leader in green action, Denver Zoo is the greenest zoo in the country and is dedicated to ensuring the safety of the environment in support of all species by attaining the highest environmental standards. Since 1996, Denver Zoo has participated in about 600 animal conservation projects in 62 countries on all seven continents.

About AZA
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

About the Children & Nature Network
Since its founding in 2006, the Children & Nature Network has been advocating for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well-being through direct experiences in nature. C&NN's vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children & Nature Network is leading the movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN provides a wide range of user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. To learn more, visit

About the North American Association for Environmental Education
For more than four decades, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has been a leader in promoting excellence in environmental education throughout North America. It is the only national membership organization dedicated to strengthening the field of environmental education. With members in more than 30 countries and Affiliate organizations in 54 states, provinces, and regions, NAAEE represents more than 16,000 members and supporters. NAAEE also operates the Natural Start Alliance -- a network of parents, teachers, and organizations that are working to ensure that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers regularly play and learn in nature.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Sean Andersen-Vie
    (720) 337-1418

    AZA Contact:
    Rob Vernon