It all started because of a problem, as many things do.
As a Zoo, we work hard to protect animals in the wild every day, and we have lots of ways we inform our guests about what is happening out there and how they can help. This information has always been accessible to adults, but we just hadn’t figured out a really good way to get kids in on the fun. So we sat down, kicked some ideas around, and realized that we had arrived at the perfect solution: build a truly immersive, interactive, educational…and most importantly, FUN website just for kids!
Now…how to build it?
First, you have to assemble a talented team. We started within the Zoo, bringing together our conservation, education, and animal teams as well as assembling a talented group of people to execute the task. We needed photos, videos, illustrations, animal facts, and sounds. We also needed somebody to put it all together in a beautiful and functional package and somebody to actually make it work.
Our “dream team” from outside the Zoo was assembled from three different cities: Kansas City, Seattle, and New Orleans. First, there was Tad Carpenter – he’s an incredible illustrator that has worked with everybody from Conan O’Brien to Jack Johnson and creates some of the most imaginative illustrations you’ve ever seen.
Next, the guy who put it all together: Kevyn Smith. He did an amazing job redesigning the main Houston Zoo website, so we literally couldn’t imagine anybody else designing this one. If you could only peek into his brain – it’s full of so many great ideas!
Finally, the guy who made it all live and breathe: Chris Boyd, owner of Apptitude. If there’s something out there he can’t make work, we’d like to see it – because we don’t believe it. We were lucky enough to get to collaborate with Apptitude on some other website projects, and we knew they were the perfect company for the task.
One of the most important things on the site is to make sure that all the information we provide to kids is up-to-date and accurate. We worked with our conservation, animal, and education teams to ensure that all the environments and animal illustrations were reflective of what you would actually see in nature. We sat down with these same teams to determine what animal facts we would present, how they would be written, and to ensure everything was correct.
The next to-do on our list was FUN. How can we make sure that kids are learning, but also having fun, so they will want to come back and learn even more? We decided on a series of games where kids can actually save animals in the wild and become field researchers themselves. They can also explore the three environments of the game with real tools from the field: binoculars, a camera, and a camera trap. Kids can then save everything they collect in their field journal.
We hope you have enjoyed exploring the site, and if you haven’t – well, it’s time to have some fun! Visit http://kids.houstonzoo.org to begin your adventure!