Discover the animals that live above ground in ‘TreeHouses’

Between taking a look at duck tracks and opossum scat, the TreeHouses exhibit at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a lot more educational than it is “Swiss Family Robinson.” Don’t let the title fool you, kids won’t be flying through the trees from home to home, they’ll be learning about the animals that do. 

The exhibit, which has been seen by kids in different museums across the country, tells the stories of squirrels, birds, mammals and bugs that make their houses in trees. Kids can travel the bridge that leads from tree to tree to learn about the various animals. They can peek through viewfinders to check out the smaller creatures that aren’t always visible to the naked eye – like bugs and caterpillars. 

Most of the animals that families can see in the exhibit are among those that call Chicago and the Midwest home. 

“Whether you’re rural or in a city like Chicago, it’s about finding the animals and you just have to look up to see them,” says John Bannon, director of marketing for the museum. “It’s all about highlighting those unique critters and getting a chance to learn more about them.” 

Kids can learn how each animal creates its home and how the different animals interact. 

With Tinkertoys, little engineers are given the chance to build their own treehouses, creating branches and finding the right tools to fit each home. 

In the middle of one of the trees is a “dance floor” where each step makes the sound of a different animal, from owls to porcupines. 

Watch the handrails and the ramp leading into the exhibit to see the tracks of animals and molds of their scat (aka poo). Not to worry, your hands and shoes will stay clean. 

The museum has added two additional exhibits to accent the Treehouses display: new creatures in the Animal House and a gallery of photos from Thomas D. Mangelsen. 

Added to the Animal House is an opossum for fans to see its long tail and cat-like features, and a Philippine sailfin lizard, also a tree-faring friend.

The photography exhibit, “Life in the Wild,” is a collection of photographs from renowned wildlife photographer Mangelsen’s trips around the globe, with life depicted on each continent. 

“I think (kids and parents) will come out of it with an awareness of the animals that call trees their home,” Bannon says. “Even the animals that are around us here in the city.”

If you go


Through June 2

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago

Included in general admission 

Find more information at

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