Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo

By Ryan Traynor, age 11, Emerald Hills, CA
I love to visit different playgrounds in California. One day, my mother brought me to a playground in a nearby city, Palo Alto, and there right next to it, was the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo. Well, the prospect of visiting a museum on a sunny day did not excite me, but as the morning wore on and the lines for the slide became longer, we decided to take a break and try it out.

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo is not your typical museum at all. It is a place where kids come to explore, discover, create and play. Through hands-on science exhibits and a zoo with live animals, my curiosity for the museum and zoo peaked.

Directly inside the doors is 2500 square feet of indoor exhibits. Although some of the exhibits change, they always invite kids to explore areas of science related to physics, math, geometry and earth science. My experience included 14 different hands-on exhibits, demonstrating gravity, motion, and forces of nature—like wind and water.
Rotating through the exhibits I was able to build, problem-solve and work with other kids. Most of the exhibits were geared towards younger children, but I still enjoyed myself. I had fun working with the other kids to move objects through the giant kid-powered ball machine.

A new exhibit in the museum is the Clean Green Energy Machine, which demonstrates renewable energy and the science behind it. I compared wind, solar, water, and kid-power and looked at their effect on our environment.

The zoo is home to more than 50 species of animals with about 200 animals in all. I really liked the small nature of the zoo. It felt like I was in a secret hideaway where I could take my time exploring the animals. Hidden behind an outer fence, I had no idea that the inside of the museum & zoo housed bobcats, raccoons, jungle bats, hedgehogs, ferrets, snakes, fresh and salt water fish and invertebrates, a red tail hawk and other birds. The zoo portion is at the end of your trip through the science exhibits. Walking into the zoo, it is as if you are visiting someone’s backyard garden. They have a beautiful water area in the middle which includes a bridge. While gazing over the bridge I saw turtles, fish and ducks. In a circular pattern around the water there is a bird sanctuary, bat cave and other animal enclosures. My favorite exhibit was the reptile cages, which included snakes! I also loved the two bobcats.

Speaking with the staff we learned that they also offer science programs for schools and community groups, as well as classes, summer camps and birthday parties for families.

The admission is free, although it is helpful if everyone can donate $3 per person to help them improve their facility. How many great facilities can say they’re free? The Palo Alto Jr. Museum and Zoo is especially appropriate for younger kids.
So, the next time you’re visiting a playground, look around. You never know what type of exciting adventure you might discover.
To find out more about the Palo Alto Jr. Museum and Zoo, see: