Guest Blogger: Carla Molina, Writer for The Huffington Post and Blogger, on Innovative Learning at Roger Williams Park Zoo

Are you an animal lover? If so, Roger Williams Park Zoo (RWPZ) in Providence, Rhode Island is a fantastic destination to get your furry friend fix. If you have children, it only enhances the experience as they have several hands-on exhibits to engage their curiosity.

Our guest blogger, Carla Molina, a writer for the Huffington Post and blogger (All Of Me Now), frequently visits RWPZ with her children and has experienced firsthand how their lives have been immensely enriched. Below she shares how the zoo has educated her children on animals and the environment while giving them a lifelong appreciation for the beauty of nature.

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My daughters and I have been enjoying the zoo since my oldest was just months old. Their grandmother had fond memories of enjoying the zoo with her own kids; so she gave us a family membership as a gift to get us started early on creating our own memories. At the time, I had lived in Rhode Island for almost 3 years and had never set foot inside Roger Williams Park Zoo. When I first ventured in, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could I really enjoy a zoo with a newborn baby? The answer: most certainly. I fell in love with the zoo on that first visit.

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Seven years and two kids later we still find ourselves falling more and more in love with RWPZ on every visit. My daughters love to watch the animals and learn about where they come from, what they eat, and how endangered they are. They are mesmerized when they watch the elephants getting bathed. My girls love to meet up with friends and lunch by the gibbons. They beg to take their picture on the various statues throughout the zoo so they can compare pictures from years past and see how much they’ve grown. Both of them could spend entire days in The Big Backyard exercising their bodies and their creativity. While they usually exercise the patience of most 5 and 7 year olds, in the wetlands they’ve got patience in spades as they search for frogs, turtles and fish. The reasons they love the zoo are endless.

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As their mom, I love RWPZ because it brings them so much joy. I love to watch their faces light up exhibit after exhibit. It’s a gift to hear them squeal with excitement when I tell them we’re going to spend the day at the zoo. It’s wonderful to see them smile and chat with the staff that’s known them since they were just toddlers. I give myself a little pat on the back when they’re having so much fun they forget they’re also learning. My heart swells when they make the connection between nature and the role they play in taking care of the environment and all its inhabitants, a lesson the zoo has taught them well. Just as my daughters’ reasons for loving the zoo are plenty, so are mine.

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One of the biggest reasons I’m a huge supporter of RWPZ is for the window it provides my daughters to the rest of the world. Visiting the animals shows them they’re part of a much larger world community. This understanding is the beginning of raising children who respect the world and all its creatures. It might seem like a bit of a leap, from enjoying a day at the zoo to raising global citizens, but the seeds of compassion and understanding begin when children can make connections between their own tiny universe and the world at large. Since around the world plane tickets aren’t in our near future, I’m grateful that every visit is a way for me to give my children the world.

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We’ve created countless memories at the zoo; and at this stage in their lives, it’s an important and vibrant part of the fabric of who my daughters are. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child and part of the village I’ve chosen is the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Just as loved ones can provide a child with comfort, security and nurture their sense of wonder, so can a place. Many adults remember with great fondness a corner of their home where they would hide out, a favorite playground they explored, or sheer happiness of running into their grandparents’ home. In the same way, Roger Williams Park Zoo has provided and continues to provide my daughters with a safe and nurturing place to be children and exercise their boundless energy. The zoo has grown and evolved alongside my daughters, and I’m hopeful it will continue to surprise us with new exhibits and areas to explore. Maybe one day, I’ll be the grandmother giving my own grandchildren the gift of a zoo membership.

Above photos courtesy of Jan Mariani, Roger Williams Park Zoo.

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Want to help educate today’s youth about animals and the environment? Through December 2015, 20% of proceeds received by Alex and Ani from selling the Ode to the Owl Bangle, with a minimum donation of $20,000, will be donated to Roger Williams Park Zoo to provide science and environmental education programs to over 30,000 children from pre-school through high school.

Shop the Ode to the Owl Charm Bangle.

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This post was written by Brendon Cunha