SPRINGFIELD (MA) – “Tally ho!” Springfield Museums is delighted to debut Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond, May 21 through September 4, in the Springfield Science Museum. This hands-on, immersive, bilingual (Spanish and English) exhibit will encourage young children to explore the natural world!
A brand-new traveling exhibit, Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond is based on the popular PBS animated kids’ series Nature Cat, created by WTTW Chicago Public Media and Spiffy Pictures, and has local media sponsorship by New England Public Media, which airs the show locally.
Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond will inspire families and children to understand that nature discovery can happen anywhere—even in their own backyards. “This theme is in complete alignment with our hopes at the Springfield Science Museum,” said Jenny Powers, Director of the Science Museum. “After a visit to the museum, we hope everyone will notice nature in a way they did not before. And we hope that what they notice will spark their curiosity to learn even more!”
All labels for the exhibit are offered in Spanish and in English. “We are so pleased the exhibit includes bilingual signage,” said Vanessa Pabón-Hernandez, Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement. “Finding your native language represented is always welcoming. And multilingual signage also invites people to learn and hone their skills in adopted languages.”
Different areas of the Nature Cat exhibit will provide opportunities to learn about nature, use math skills to explore the natural world, use tools to investigate environments, and work and play together to create, explore, and accomplish tasks.
The exhibit will offer several distinct interactive learning experience areas featuring Nature Cat and his friends: Hal, the happy-go-lucky dog; Squeeks, the intrepid mouse; Daisy, the brainy bunny; and Nature Cat’s nemesis Ronald, the cat next door. Environments to explore include:
- The Backyard: A host of activity sitting just on the edge of the forest, the backyard includes Hal’s funky doghouse where visitors can take shelter from the rainy weather and learn how to “play it safe” while using counting skills to measure the time between thunder claps and lightning flashes. Outside, Daisy invites visitors to try their hand at planting a garden of vegetables and flowers in creative, recycled containers such as tires, soda bottles and even boots!
- The Marsh: Visitors can hop aboard Squeeks’s cousin Marvin’s raft, overlooking a “panoramic view” of a lush and thriving marsh. Kids can practice environmental stewardship by helping Marvin and his friends sort and clean up the trash polluting their homes, using the nearby recycling bins. Seen through telescopes around the Marsh, Ronald invites visitors to try out his slide, just a short climb up the hill, or solve jigsaw and slider puzzles.
- The Cave: Guests can join Hal in the search for Harold, his lost flying disc, and explore the world beneath the Earth’s surface. After putting on safety helmets, cave-explorers can trace the flow of water in and out of the cave and observe a variety of critters in the dim light—an eyeless salamander, bats overhead, and glow worms pulsing in a rhythmic light display.
- The Forest: Visitors are invited into an intimate space inside of a vibrant forest, where they can explore a hollowed-out den in the base of a large tree, crawl into a rotting log to discover the many creatures it plays home to and see a vernal pond at their feet.
Nature Cat airs on NEPM HD Saturdays at 9 am and Sundays at 8:30 am; on NEPM Kids Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 pm and streaming at nepm.org The series follows Fred (voiced by Saturday Night Live alum Taran Killam), a house cat who dreams of exploring the great outdoors. In each episode, once his family leaves for the day, Fred transforms into Nature Cat, “backyard explorer extraordinaire.” With the help of his animal friends, voiced by Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon (Squeeks) and Bobby Moynihan (Hal); Sesame Street’s Chris Knowings (Ronald); and Kate Micucci (Daisy) of Scrubs and The Big Bang Theory, Nature Cat embarks on action-packed adventures full of nature investigation.
Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond was developed by Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, Illinois in partnership with WTTW Chicago and Spiffy Pictures, with the support of the Hamill Family Foundation.
“We are excited to watch kids and families interacting with our Nature Cat characters,” said David Rudman, who with his brother Adam created and produces Nature Cat for Spiffy Pictures. “Our goal with the series was always to encourage kids to have fun, hands-on experiences with nature, and this exhibit will do just that.”
“We strive to make WTTW content come alive and be experiential for our youngest audiences, and this exhibit certainly delivers on that goal,” said Lisa Tipton, WTTW Chicago’s Head of Programming and Pledge.
“Nature is a source of wonder and inspiration for children,” said Stephanie Bynum, Vice President of Programs at Kohl Children’s Museum. “The natural world is one of the best environments for children to explore, absorb, experiment, and play. We hope this exhibit will inspire countless young outdoor adventurers.”
Media Sponsorship by New England Public Media, NEPM.org
About The Springfield Museums
THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.