As of August, the Wonderscope Children’s Museum facility is fully enclosed. Photo by Bill Rankin
Wonderscope set to open at Red Bridge Shopping Center in October
By Christina McDonough Hunt
Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City looks to open the doors to their new location at the Red Bridge Shopping Center in October.
The fully-accessible 30,000 sq ft space will help fulfill Wonderscope’s mission to spark a lifelong love of learning through the power of play. The nearly doubled exhibit space will allow children to use their imaginations and explore endless possibilities through hands-on activities.
Each exhibit space is designed with STEAM education in mind. STEAM is an educational concept that teaches Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics through hands-on activities and creative design. And the new exhibits allow Wonderscope to appeal to a wider age range of children.
“In our current space, our age range is 8 and under, but with all the activities that we are adding here, we will be more 12 and under,” said Roxane Hill, Wonderscope Executive Director.
A rendering of the Creation Station at Wonderscope.
The Creation Station exhibit features an art studio on one side, and a design studio on the other. The art studio includes a stage where children can watch a puppet show or use the stage to create a show of their own. Wonderscope hopes to also bring in an Artist in Residence to help lead art projects. The design studio will give children the opportunity to play with Lego tables, design and create objects that move, build with rigamajigs (a collection of wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, nuts and bolts, and gears) and more. Wonderscope also looks to partner with outside sources to offer technology and engineering programs.
“We are hoping to partner with schools and bring their robotics team in and lead an activity here on the weekend for the public,” Hill said. “We are also hoping to partner with some engineering firms in the area to lead programs.”
The Crossroads Past and Future transportation exhibit features a railway station and a train. Children can dress up, board the train, be the engineer, or conductor, and more. The train is sponsored by Union Pacific. The exhibit also includes a horse and carriage with clothing and other items that pioneers would have carried with them. The Port Authority sponsored the steam ship which also has luggage, a horn that children can blow, and a smelling station with different spices that the steamship may be carrying.
The transportation exhibit has activities that connect to the Wonder Climber, which is a feature that includes all things Kansas City, such as a tornado, a cow, canoe, and a house hanging from the high ceiling to mimic items flying in a tornado. There will be a bridge that leads to the house, and part of the house will be plexiglass so the children can see through the floor. The children will also be able to climb 20 feet into the air to a bus that is partially outside of the building. Children will be able to pretend to be a bus driver, open and close the door (secured with plexiglass), honk the horn, and more. The bus was donated by the Kincaid Group.
The half-acre outdoor exhibit space has a treehouse, an agricultural piece with garden beds and a silo. The middle of the outdoor exhibit will feature climbing equipment that mimics the KC cityscape and a maze made out of shrubs will be located behind the cityscape. The shrubs form a path which include musical instruments disguised as flowers. The outdoor space also has a shaded area with tables and chairs for sitting outside with large ceiling fans.
“We wanted a space that we could use all year round and this land gave us that opportunity,” Hill noted. “Plus, there’s so much [positive] research now about being outside regarding brain development and learning. We wanted to offer that.”
Other exhibits include Tot Spot and Kid City, the Kansas City Cafe, which is a BBQ restaurant, Wonder Market with a grocery store and farmer’s market, Water Works water exhibit, and the On the Move sports exhibit which showcases basketball, soccer, football, workout videos, baseball diamond, agility and training exercises, and a small locker room.
Beyond the exhibits, the new space offers a program room for large groups, offices, a first aid room, conference rooms, an employee break room with kitchen, prep rooms, two birthday rooms and a food service room with vending machines and tables and chairs, and lots of space for storage and exhibit construction.
The front desk and large lobby has large windows that will allow natural light to come in and includes a large abstract art piece. Wonderscope will also have a small gift shop, which is a new feature.
“I have kids and when they were little when we traveled, they always had to have something from the places that we went,” said Hill. “Our hope is that we will have little keepsake things that customers can grab, but also if you are coming to a birthday party and you needed some things to go into the goodies bags or something, you’d be able to grab something.”
Currently, Wonderscope has raised about $14 million of the $15 million needed to completely pay for the new space. The land was donated by the Buckley family, owners of Lane4.
“The land was donated to us by the Buckley family and we are grateful to them for that,” Hill commented. “In the future, we hope to expand more and because of this large piece of land, we will have the option to do so.”