The Orlando Science Center spent the summer in demolition mode, effectively destroying most of the ground floor. Ultimately, it will be home to a new ‘Life’ exhibit, including animal encounters and environmental education activities.

“You’ll feel like you’re in a rainforest when you’re inside,” Brandan Lanman, vice president of visitor experience, said during a recent construction site tour of the Life space.

But for now, it’s a raw gray space dominated by scaffolding that reaches a 40-foot ceiling. The finished product will be divided into three zones: rainforest, ocean and wetlands, which will highlight Florida’s species and concerns, Lanman said. It’s about 10,000 square feet, a “NatureWorks” exhibit and the former bottom floor location of KidsTown.

“As part of this complete experience, we had to tour around the country to gain a better understanding of these spaces and how best to work with these animals and people,” Ranman said. “One of the most influential things he did was the space he could be with them…watching the tamarins jump from tree to tree in the same air you are with them. to be able to do it.”

The rainforest area also includes tropical birds, sloths and live plantings. This is the largest exhibition construction project in the museum’s history. It is scheduled to debut in the second half of 2023.

On the upper floors of construction, work is going on in the backstage animal space.

“This is a refuge space if they leave the exhibit to live at night or don’t really want to be at the exhibit. They have a lot of choice and control,” Lanman says.

Life’s waters feature Caribbean fish and bonnethead sharks.

“Again, the intention behind what we talked about was to remove as much of a barrier to connecting with nature as possible,” Lanman said.

“This tank is almost a 270-degree turn of five-foot-tall acrylic, and the whole thing is almost a solid piece. I feel like I am.”

Touch-screen educational activities will be set up and Science Center staff will be stationed at ‘Life’, which includes a platform above the aquarium.

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“We have activities built into the space, hands-on activities, to teach about concerns about rainforest logging and how to manage it,” Lanman said. Topics include fish migration patterns and coral bleaching.

“Many of our children never go out in nature, and many people in central Florida have never been to the ocean. ,” said JoAnn Newman, president and CEO of the Science Center.

“From an environmental point of view, there is a lot of data and research on it. I mean, I hope everyone has it,” she said.

Despite all the changes, the cypress swamp tree that has been the centerpiece of the Science Center since its opening in 1997 remains intact.

“We wanted to keep it. It would look a little different and hopefully be a fresh, new, different experience. That’s what we’re going for,” Newman said.

“We maintain the cypress swamp as an opportunity to really talk about what the area has to offer and the challenges the area will ultimately have to overcome,” said Lanman. Animals highlighted include screech owls, gopher turtles and Sherman fox squirrels.

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