The Junior Center for Art and Science is a wonderful gem of a science museum and art studio located next to the bird sanctuary at Lake Merritt, fit with amazing views of Oakland and all the beautiful wildlife that lives on and near the lake.
The Free Animal Discovery session is held in a room full of amphibians and reptiles which overlooks Lake Merritt. The views of the lake are amazing but the room is quite amazing as well. It is adorned with lovely animal artwork by local Oakland students and informational posters of the different animals in the room.
Gary the tortoise was the first animal to greet us. He is a thirty-five year-old desert tortoise that was taken out of his natural habitat and nearly starved to death living in someone’s backyard. Gary seems to be thriving at the Center now.
We also met a Bearded Dragon named Tyler. He was a very chill reptile and we were able to pet him and hold him. Other animals we met were a Leopard Gecko, a snake, toads, and Madagascar Hissing Roaches (eek!).
The animal discovery session includes petting, touching, and observing the animals. Baskets of crayons sit on the tables, encouraging children to draw the animals they meet. The staff is prepared to play games and teach the kids about the different parts of the animals’ body, etc; however, it seems this is an underused resource, and my toddler was the only child in attendance, and at 15 months, a bit young for games.
There is a lovely deck located right outside of the room that overlooks Lake Merritt and sometimes they set up tables so the kids can enjoy their snacks if they so choose.
We had such a wonderful time there and this would be a great rainy day activity if you needed to get the kids out of the house. I highly recommend checking out the Junior Center for Art and Science Animal Discovery Session. My son had a blast!
Plan your visit to Junior Center for Art & Science
Hours and rates: Tuesdays – Saturdays 10am – 3pm | $6
Drop in and visit interactive learning spaces including: Art Studio, Science Room, Makerspace, Playspace, and Animal Room
Junior Center for Art and Science is located at Lakeside Park
558 Bellevue Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
There is a ton of fun to be had once you are in the Lakeside Park. We also like the bird sanctuary, nearby play structure, and Fairyland all within walking distance. Quadruple the fun! Parking can be found all along the lake.