The Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, has long been a favorite of our cultural attraction projects that we’ve completed. This year, NatureQuest at Fernbank is celebrating nine years since opening and inspiring kids, families, and caregivers in the greater Atlanta area to learn more about the diversity of nature that surrounds them. Within an 8,000 square foot exhibit space, NatureQuest seeks to engage all senses to immerse every guest with interactive, local environments and activities. The scenery, lighting, and interactive elements are designed to be mindful and inclusive while creating a sense of wonder and discovery, and many of the exhibits can be easily rotated with additional content to keep the exhibit current and fresh.
When creating NatureQuest, our design intent was to not make the environment a static, observational area. Children are naturally inclined to be scientists – their innate curiosity and drive to ask questions, try something, and see what happens is really the scientific method in practice. They learn by doing and getting involved with their surroundings. So what better way to ‘get on their level’, than by designing environments that encourage them to explore? For instance, the underwater area of NatureQuest allows kids and parents to pick up a starfish and match it to its home on a pier column, or they can crawl through a burrow in another nearby exhibit. Throughout the space, we intentionally created environments that are meant to be explored, touched, and interacted with in a variety of ways, in the hope that both children and adults will learn more about the habitats right there in Georgia.
NatureQuest isn’t just tactile — it’s tech-driven, too. The design seamlessly integrates entertainment technology into a highly educational and interactive environment with more than 50 interactive elements. An example of this is the augmented reality binoculars placed near the cabin exhibit. Guests can peer through the lenses, and wherever they’re aiming the point of view, a pop-up video appears within the viewscreen to provide insightful information about what they’re looking at. The scientific content is artfully embedded into various aspects of the exhibit such that the interactions with elements are very intuitive and interesting for audiences. Another example is the fish in the ‘digital’ river are regionally accurate and dart away or swim up for a look as the children ‘wade’ through. NatureQuest rewards exploration. There are no right and wrong answers, just new discoveries to be made and questions to be asked. Every child, regardless of age, foreknowledge, or ability, can succeed in this richly engaging, supportive experience.
We’re quite proud of the work done at NatureQuest to bring this award-winning project to life. It has become a great addition to the Fernbank Museum, and the exhibit continues to serve the purpose of educating young children and their families of the areas surrounding Atlanta by engaging them with nature itself.