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DETROIT-The Detroit Zoo, located on 125 acres in Royal Oak along I-696 and Woodward, broke ground Wednesday on a $9.1 million Ford Center for Environmental and Conservation Education.Funded in large part by Ford Motor Co., the center will be nearly 38,000-sf in size and will be dedicated to educating children about the natural world, said zoo officials.

Zoo Director Ron Kagan, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Ford Motor Company CEO and Chairman of the Board William Clay Ford Jr. and Chairman of the Detroit Zoological Society Ruth Glancy attended the groundbreaking ceremony.”The City of Detroit is proud to have a facility that continues to make significant strides in educating our children. This new Education Center will be a great contribution to the community and the Metropolitan Detroit area,” Kilpatrick said.

The Center, which opens in late 2004, will have a variety of educational andinteractive areas to accommodate thousands of school children as well as zoo visitors. An auditorium will give the 75-year-old zoo the capability to host various lectures, films and theater performances for hundreds of people. Four Interpretive Studios (themed classrooms) are included in the center and each will contain multi-media learning stations, which will enable hands-on interaction.

Two galleries will be located within the zoo’s new Center. The first, a2,500 square foot Exhibit Gallery, will house changing exhibits. The second is the Children’s Gallery, which will display children’s work to the public.

The Detroit Zoological Institute, founded in 1928, is committed tocelebrating and saving wildlife. Situated on 125 acres of naturalisticexhibits, the Zoo is open year round with several indoor viewing areas.

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