Zoo program promotes trading natural Texas artifacts

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Texas Nature Traders, Fort Worth Zoo’s newest educational program, encourages exploration and learning for children ages three and up.

Brother-sister duo Montana and Cheyenne Spencer, who work at Texas Nature Traders, said there are over 1,500 members of the program and about 95 percent of the items brought in are from children. They said that fossils, rocks, and pinecones are received most often, but they have also received geode rocks, animal skulls and many other artifacts.

“The zoo is an extremely fun place to visit,” Alexis Wilson, director of communications, said. “People don’t realize it, but when they are walking around and reading about the exhibits they are being educated while being entertained.”

Texas Nature Traders was launched last year and concentrates on native Texas nature items. Children can exchange fossils, rocks, bones, plants and other artifacts for points, according to the Zoo’s website. The website also has a list of what is acceptable and not acceptable to trade. Traders can use the points, or save them, for items in the Nature Traders inventory.

According to the website, children earn points by having knowledge of their item and bringing the item in good, clean condition to trade. Traders may bring only two items or a collection of five similar items, such as five pinecones or five sticks, per visit.

“Education is one of the three pillars that the Fort Worth Zoo is built around,” Wilson said.

The three pillars are conservation, education and entertainment, she said, and the pillars overlap for a fun, exciting atmosphere.

Texas Nature Traders is located in the newest building in the Texas Wild! area on the south side of the zoo.

The program is open from 11 a.m. to one hour before the zoo closes seven days a week. Zoo admission is required to trade for items.

For more information about the Texas Nature Traders education program, visit  http://www.fortworthzoo.org/education/camps-programs/texas-nature-traders/.

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