Irvine’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Environmental Education Building highlights uniquely Piedmont habitats: woodlands, wetlands and meadows. Interactive exhibits provide hands-on learning and tools to better explore nature in the Piedmont region.
Sounds of nature fill the building. Bird calls, insect sounds and frog croaks enhance the experience of each of the habitat areas. There’s a lofty ceiling with ample daylight streaming in from clerestory windows. A wall of glass at the end of the building provides a stunning view of the forest beyond, inviting visitors to go out and explore. A stained concrete floor, complete with leaf impressions and animal tracks, keeps visitors looking for more. Live-animal exhibits provide life-like habitats for Irvine’s animals and are beautiful renditions of nature.
This extensive display features vitrines filled with eggs, feathers, skeletons, turtle shells, seeds, insect mounts and more. Visitors may examine and identify these rare and special artifacts housed for educational purposes.
Woods at Night – A narration with nighttime sounds encourages visitors to discover nocturnal animals in a darkened room. Lights synchronized to the soundtrack shine on taxidermy animal specimens.
Leaf Matching – Visitors look closely at leaf edges to find matching leaves, which drop through cut-outs on the kiosk.
Bird Calls & Songs– Listen to bird sounds and then try to guess which bird makes the “mystery” bird call. Taxidermy bird mounts and actual nests add interest.
Dichotomous Tree ID – A series of questions on this interactive computer program helps visitors identify trees by their leaves and branching patterns.
Box Turtle Habitat – This large free-standing enclosure features naturalistic rockwork, a water feature, and live plantings for live box turtles. Children can pretend to be box turtles as they crawl through a tunnel under the enclosure and stand up inside of a tube within the exhibit to get a different perspective of the box turtle habitat.
Animal Tracks – Feel each track impression, then lift a panel to see which animal made each track.
Filtering Wetlands – Visitors can move a lever to gently shift water back and forth, carrying little spheres of “pollution” towards wetland grasses. Watch how the grasses filter pollution from entering waterways.
Plants in the Wetlands – Contrast plant types by pushing buttons to match which roots, stems and seeds are adapted to wet or dry growing conditions.
Scope on a Rope – Closely examine natural artifacts (or your own fingers) using this hand-held mini microscope. The magnified view is displayed above on a large flat screen monitor.
Chesapeake Bay Map – A wall-size map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed allows visitors to examine the tributaries and land use within the watershed. Plus, an enlargement of the local area is displayed. Using special glasses, viewers can see the topography in 3-D.
Animal Tracks – Discover different creatures’ track impressions and have fun following them throughout the Exhibit Hall.
Diamondback Terrapin Habitat – Watch native terrapins swim in a large, naturalistic aquarium. The headwater stream on our property links Irvine directly to the Chesapeake Bay; the home of wild terrapins!
Bluebirds – Visitors learn about bluebird nesting by peering into a bluebird box. A video loop (filmed on the property) shows a bluebird feeding her young.
Honey Bee Hive – In this live demonstration bee hive, visitors can take a peek into the complex society of a honeybee colony. Search for the queen. Watch workers come and go through a tube to the outside world.
Bee Dance & See like a Bee – Watch how real honeybees do their “waggle dance” on video, and do the dance yourself by following dance steps on the floor. Look through the bee goggles to see like a bee with compound eyes.
Sun Cycle – By cranking a handle, visitors can turn colorful gears which graphically display the link between the sun, plant “producers,” and animal “consumers.”
Insect Mimicry – Insect specimens can be examined with a moveable magnifier to see each insect’s unique adaptations using mimicry or camouflage for survival.
Plant Scents & Bee Guides – Sniff each scent to determine if it will attract or repel animals. Visitors press a button to shine ultraviolet light on flowers, revealing the otherwise unseen bee guides to human eyes.
Green Features – Learn about what makes Irvine green and discover what people can do to conserve, restore and protect natural resources. Turn the big wheels and try to match the picture of the action with the positive result it will have on the environment. This kiosk also introduces the visitor to a green feature logo that will be used on interpretive signs highlighting many eco-friendly components of the building and site.
Modeled after a child’s backyard playhouse, the kid-friendly space features animal costumes, nature books and puzzles to add fun and learning to kids of all ages. The cozy space containseco-friendly carpeting and pillows, along with a crawl-through for kids to hide and play.
For children and adults alike, often the most popular attractions at Irvine are our animals. There are more than 70 animal residents of Irvine, representing 34 different species indoors, and hundreds more, outdoors. Our animal collection contains creatures that are unable to sustain themselves in the wild due to a variety of reasons. Many of the animals can be found in the Piedmont.
To learn more about our residents, please visit our exhibit hall and talk to one of our naturalists about these and other animals that are native to Maryland.