I submitted this case study to ExhibitFiles a couple months ago, but I thought I'd re-publish it here in case you missed it.
The Anteater Cantina is a docent station at Roger Williams Park Zoo. It was developed in celebration of the arrival of the newest star of the Tropical America exhibition, a 7-foot long giant anteater named Johei.
Visitors entering Tropical America are welcomed by pink flamingos before stopping by the giant anteater habitat on their way into the rainforest building. After their trek through the rainforest, visitors can rest at the Anteater Cantina and learn from volunteer docents about the feeding adaptations of the animals they've just encountered.
The education team defined the goals of the station and architects designed the building accordingly. The building needed a storage closet, counter space to accommodate interactives and docents' props, and enough room for several docents to stand behind the counter comfortably.
Since the focus of the docent station was on the feeding adaptations of rainforest animals, it seemed appropriate to model the look after a Latin American diner. A red corrugated roof was chosen to give the impression of Spanish tile and the exterior of the building was covered in joint putty to look like stucco. Plastic vacuum-formed ceiling tiles were installed to give the look of a tin ceiling. Faux finishes were applied over interior and exterior walls to give the look of tile and stone. A menu and "posters"; painted directly on the wall make humorous reference to the feeding adaptations of the animals in the exhibit. To further the theme, faux chili ristras, a hanging basket with rubber fruit, an old-fashioned telephone, and other props were added. Rubber insects adorn the walls and details like a stack of Sloth Brand Decaf cans complete the look. Some of the props did double-duty: the diner-style clock and erasable specials board not only looked the part, they helped docents stay on schedule and give visitors a list of the day's demonstrations.
The anteater feeding game encourages visitors to "eat like an anteater"; and use a magnetic tongue to gobble up ball-bearing termites. The original intent for the interactives was to provide content when docents were off-duty. When docents were available they would remove the interactives for a clear counter space to show skulls or demonstrate feeding techniques. When their shifts were over, they could put the interactives on the counter and lock them back into place. Unfortunately the games proved too heavy and cumbersome to expect volunteers to lift and move them. Instead, it was decided that half the counter would be devoted to interactives and other half would be clear for docent use.
While the station is far more engaging when docents are present, visitor response to the Anteater Cantina has been very positive. Says visitor Janet Noke of her son, "He was thrilled at the Cantina to be able to hold the anteater skull, and manipulate the tongue in the interactive toy."
For more photos, please visit the case study on ExhibitFiles.