New nature-focused children’s play area opens at California Academy of Sciences

New nature-focused children’s play area opens at California Academy of SciencesPhoto courtesy of the California Academy of Sciences
Wesley Severson
Published on January 14, 2022

Kids can get down and dirty while connecting with nature at a new, outdoor play area that just opened at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Wander Woods, according to its website, is a children’s play space that “encourages crawling, climbing, and hands-on exploration of natural material and native plants.” All over the grounds, you will see natural obstacles and activity areas made from things like repurposed logs and trees that were harvested around San Francisco.

The purpose of the nature-focused play area is for kids to learn about the habitats in the area where they live. Organizers say kids in the Bay Area need the mental, physical, and emotional benefits of getting their hands dirty. “If kids grow up to become adults that aren’t connected to their local place, why on earth would they save those places or care about them?” Executive Director Scott D. Sampson told the SF Chronicle. “For a deep and lasting bond with the natural world to take hold, children need to engage early and often with bodily contact with the outdoors. They need the freedom to climb trees, pick flowers, make forts and get filthy along the way,” Sampson said. 

Photo Credit: California Academy of Sciences


Along with the giant logs and boulders, Wander Woods allows kids to navigate through tree trunk mazes or get a birds-eye view of the area from a perched-up nest area created by a mess of interwoven branches. The SF Chronicle reports that Wander Woods also has a large outdoor classroom space that allows kids to draw and do other hands-on, craft-style activities that involve outdoor learning.

The California Academy of Sciences teamed up with Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds to build the exhibit. The design firm also just built the new Nature Exploration Area at Heron’s Head Park in Bayview-Hunters Point.

AS the Chronicle reports, San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department is interested in building more of these nature-focused playgrounds throughout the city. As for Wander Woods, it opened Friday and will be open every day in the East Garden.