Children can explore, observe, study, pretend and play at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s new “Beverly and Jon Thompson Discovery Zone” permanent exhibition.

The exhibit includes educational materials as diverse as the natural world, allowing children and their caregivers to engage in science-oriented interactives and experience display cases with stunning collections, true-to-scale touchable objects and various activity stations.

The Florida Museum has housed a popular temporary “Discovery Room” for years. After assessing the room’s value as a learning center to engage younger visitors and their families, the Museum created a permanent, more interactive-based and technologically advanced exhibit to spark a sense of curiosity about the surrounding world. The exhibit also introduces fundamental science and cultural heritage concepts.

A modern boat model for navigation allows children to explore the Gulf of Mexico and its native species of marine life. Other interactive technology activities include excavating an archaeological site and a “color your fish” activity on a large touch screen, where participants can color and name animated fish that swim with other Gulf species.

The exhibit introduces concepts such as the butterfly life cycle and the differences and similarities between a fossil and replica cast. Microscopes show a detailed perspective of tiny objects, and touchable displays introduce more sensory forms of learning. Live bugs and themed areas, such as the marine and forest units, capture the variety of ecosystems on Earth.

The “Discovery Zone” central construction design resembles the Earth’s spherical shape. The large-scale centerpiece featuring Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing, and its passionflower host plant, along with large murals and video screens, help provide an immersive experience.