Florida: Mission Everglades is educating through an interactive experience

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In December Florida: Mission Everglades opened and has been educating people by combining learning, with themed environments and native animals at Zoo Miami. The planning and design was done by Main Street Design through interpretive planning and designing expertise.

“It’s about storytelling, not facts and figures,” says Carol Kruse, Director of Zoo Miami, referring to the newly opened Florida: Mission Everglades. “Main Street Design understood immediately that the strength of the storytelling makes a connection to and develops empathy within our guests.”

Opened in December 2016, Florida: Mission Everglades is an interactive zone at Zoo Miami, centered around Florida’s Everglades ecosystem. Through architecture, design and experience, Florida: Mission Everglades gently asks guests to consider what choices they can make in their lives to help protect and preserve this rich, natural habitat.

“For a long time, the Everglades was a missing piece of the zoo’s master plan,” explains Kruse. “We wanted to tell the story of the Everglades habitat and animals, which are practically in our backyard.”

Main Street Design provided interpretive planning and design throughout the 4.5-acre, $33 million project that features multiple touchstone experiences, including:

Lostman’s River Boat Ride:Guests board a boat and float through Everglades habitats providing up-close access to native plants and animals.

Panther Tracking Experience:Utilizing GPS tracking technology used by Florida Fish & Wildlife, and “gamification” techniques, guests see how real panthers move around in the wild.

River Otter and Crocodile Play Zones:By way of clear acrylic tunnels incorporated into the exhibits, guests can crawl alongside real crocodiles and slide through an otter sanctuary, while the creatures play and splash nearby.

Thunderstorm Wet Play Area:Designed as a play area for toddlers, a periodic, simulated thunderstorm splashes water below while reminding guests of the importance of rain and fresh water to the Everglades ecosystem.

“This is museum-quality, interpretive content within a fun, themed environment,” said Michael Mercadante, President of Main Street Design. “As museums and zoos embrace themed entertainment, we are able to leverage our experience in all these markets for our clients.” Main Street Design has over 25 years of experience designing for zoos, aquariums, museums, theme parks and attractions. Mercadante himself has served in leadership roles within the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

For Florida: Mission Everglades, Main Street Design worked with Zoo Miami staff, Miami-Dade County, and the Zoo Miami Foundation to help balance the educational goals of the Foundation and the operational needs of the County. This kind of collaborative process involving multiple interests and stakeholders is familiar to Main Street Design. “In many ways the process parallels the design and implementation of major theme park IP (Intellectual Property) projects,” said Tevere MacFadyen, Principal of Interpretive Development at Main Street Design. “Our approach is holistic and detailed. We are in the business of authenticity.”


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