I am the furthest thing from a State Fair expert. I don’t even go every year. But when I do go, I like to beeline to the Eco Experience. This year, as usual, The Eco Experience will have a lot of fun, family-friendly displays and activities. You could seriously just do this one thing and fill an entire day. Below is the run down of of the family fun you can find at the Eco Experience Exhibit.
One of the new developments this year is the Nature Adventure Play Outdoor Playground. I’m kind of split on the idea of spending a great deal of time here, because why would I pay State Fair ticket prices to sit and watch my kids play at a park? However, it is a little more than a sandbox. The multi-sensory playground is also composed of plant materials, tree stumps, tree branches, and natural everyday recycled materials — all designed to help fight “nature deficit disorder”. Spending some time watching my children play here may give me some ideas as we build our own outdoor play area. The area focuses on encouraging imagination with a a large sand and water area, a grassy hill with teepee and fairy gardens, and an adventure play construction zone using recycled and natural materials.
While visiting the Eco Experience, kids can stop at the information desk to make their own origami jumping frog and then do a scavenger hunt for matching origami frogs. This is how they will know an exhibit is geared toward kids. Some of these kid-friendly exhibits include:
- Trees Clean our Water exhibit. Pour water through a funnel and see how trees help slow runoff compared to runoff in a vacant parking lot that directs to a storm sewer.
- Air Pollution Area: Play with toy cars while learning about the concentration of air pollution along the most frequently-traveled roads.
- Wood Smoke Exhibit: Explore a small wooden house around a fire pit while learning how wood smoke can worsen urban air-quality.
- Water Exhibit: Look at small Minnesota water bugs through a microscope. View the detailed, 200-square-foot watershed map of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District. Create their own puppet shows with fish on the shadow puppet stage. Play “What’s in the Box” by placing your hand and feeling an object hidden in a box. Then, lift the lid to see what the object is and learn how it connects to mercury found in our state’s fish.
- Kick Gas Exhibit “Ride” the stationary bike through picturesque backdrops while learning about commuting options and bike-share programs.
- Kid’s Activity Area: Relax in chairs as the kids play air hockey, iPad games and puzzles. They can also become storm-drain goalies while learning about storm water and how to protect your household drain from pollutants.
- ReUse Room: Use recycled products to make a journal and other daily hands-on projects. Demo times are 10-11:30 a.m., 1-2:30 p.m., 3:30-5 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m..
- The Sustainability Stage: It’s always good to know where to get free food at the State Fair. Among other hourly presentations, there will be cooking demonstrations with samples at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. In the evening, fresh-popped locally-grown popcorn will be available during films presented by Renewing the Countryside. See a full schedule at the Eco Experience webpage.
- Pollinators in the garden: This bee-friendly garden is designed to give us ideas for attracting pollinators to our own yards. There will also be demonstrations every day during the fair.
- Healthy Local Food Area: Again, it’s good to know where their is free food at the fair. Peace Coffee will be offering samples of fresh-brewed, organic, fair trade and locally roasted coffee every morning. (If I was camping out like Anne, this is where you would find me every morning.) Other samples will be available from local farmers, education groups and producer
- The world’s largest wad of paper: View a 10-foot wad of paper while learning what you can and can’t recycle in your own community and learn a few behavior modifications that can create less trash in our landfills. Bring your camera to get a picture of your kids next to this ball and while you have it out, get a picture on the love seat made of recycled cardboard.
- “Retro” Phone Booth: Kids love old phones. Let them climb into this refurbished phone booth and call the paper reduction hotline.
- Remodeling? There’s Quite a Bit of Information about designing a green home. Although this may not be interesting to kids, the “play house” that demonstrates the tips may be exciting for some.