Zoo, IPFW, & Little River Wetlands Project join to promote nature play – Families4Nature

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News release from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:

Zoo, IPFW, & Little River Wetlands Project Join to Promote Nature Play
Families4Nature offers programs, incentives to get kids outside

(December 2, 2015) – To encourage kids and parents to unplug and explore the outdoors, three Fort Wayne organizations are partnering to launch a new initiative called Families4Nature.

Families4Nature includes a year-long calendar of programs and events and is a joint project of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, IPFW’s Environmental Resources Center, and Little River Wetlands Project.

“We know that kids and families spend far less time outdoors than they did 20 or 30 years ago,” says Cheryl Piropato, Director of Education & Communications for the Zoo. “Families4Nature is part of a nationwide effort to encourage parents and children to rediscover the simple joys of being outdoors – skipping stones, climbing trees, and enjoying nature.”

According to Liz Hincks, Wetlands Education Coordinator for Little River Wetlands Project, “Connecting families with the outdoors is fun! Making that connection helps families learn about and better appreciate the value of nature and wetlands within their community.”

“A nationwide push for improved STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and math – includes the biological sciences,” says Sasha Tetzlaff, Research Assistant for IPFW’s Environmental Resources Center. “Getting outdoors can spark that interest in kids of all ages.”

As part of Families4Nature, in 2016 the Zoo will construct a Nature Discovery Zone near the site of the former Diehm Museum, across the street from the Zoo. The Nature Discovery Zone will feature logs, rocks, and sticks for old-fashioned fort building plus a small marsh for exploration.

Families4Nature also includes a Nature Passport that can be turned in for free Zoo tickets and other incentives. Families can fill out the Nature Passport by completing simple outdoor activities such as taking walks or collecting leaves, or by attending events at the three partner locations.

Families can download and print the Nature Passport and see upcoming Families4Nature events at

Families4Nature is funded in part by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Disney Conservation Fund and the Prophet Sisters Foundation.


About the IPFW Environmental Resources Center
The Environmental Resources Center’s (ERC) mission is to promote the understanding and conservation of the natural resources of the region through scientific research, educational opportunities and outreach. As one of the Centers of Excellence at Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne, the ERC is a collaborative effort among an array of IPFW faculty, staff and students, as well as community partners in and beyond northeastern Indiana.


About Little River Wetlands Project (LRWP)
Little River Wetlands Project’s mission is to restore and protect wetlands in the historic watershed of the Little River and to provide educational opportunities that encourage good stewardship of wetlands and other natural ecosystems. LRWP protects almost 1,200 acres, mostly restored wetland preserves open to the public, in our area. Its 716-acre Eagle Marsh preserve in southwest Fort Wayne is the largest inland urban wetland restoration in the United States, with more than ten miles of nature trails.

LRWP also offers free nature programs and guided hikes for children, families and adults that will serve more than 12,000 people this year. Its family-friendly Earth Day Fort Wayne in April and Monarch Festival in September, both held at Eagle Marsh, invite participants to learn about wetlands and conservation, view native wildflowers and wildlife, plant native plants at home or at the preserve, and participate in a variety of interactive learning stations. All its programs are free and open to the community. Learn more at or by calling 260.478.2515.


About the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s mission is to connect kids and animals, strengthen families, and inspire people to care. The Zoo is northeast Indiana’s largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 500,000 guests annually. The Zoo received the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award, was voted Indiana’s #1 “Gotta-Do Summer Attraction,” and is consistently named one of the nation’s Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets.

The Zoo is a conservation leader, contributing more than $80,000 annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats, and participating in cooperative management programs for 91 endangered species and taxa. The Zoo was named Northeast Indiana’s Sustainable Business of the Year in 2014.

As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The Zoo’s operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.

The Zoo opens for the 2016 season on April 23, 2016. Hours are 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily, with extended hours of 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM from Memorial Day – Labor Day.


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