Farm to Market exhibit opens at Wonderscope
Emmerson Keller had a busy Monday at the farm.
The Olathe 3-year-old fed a baby calf, loaded a silo with bales of hay, picked fruit and vegetables, and shopped at the farmer’s market. She even got to be a pig for a little while.
All of her activities were part of the new Farm to Market exhibit at Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City. The exhibit is the fourth the museum is using to “prototype” exhibits it plans for a future museum facility.
Lauranne Hess, museum director, said the Junior League of Kansas City, Mo., helped fund and plan the Farm to Market exhibit, a reworking of the museum’s former “Marketplace” room, adding a barn and crop area with more learning-through-play possibilities.
“Most of the prototypes today have really been based off of favorite experiences from the past, but really freshened up,” she said.
To make the barn, the museum repurposed a “greenhouse” from a former exhibit but added a new conveyor belt and silo. The professionally fabricated conveyor belt moves Styrofoam “hay bales” into the silo, where they fall to the bottom and can be removed for reuse.
“This has been one of the biggest hits, and I think it really adds something to Wonderscope, because this is a way that kids can really move materials in a large, motor-active activity, and that’s what we didn’t have as much of,” Hess said. “So the kids have really been loving, loving, loving this.”
The barn also includes a puppet show area with barn animal puppets, a hen house where children can gather eggs from stuffed hens, and a plastic baby calf that children can “feed” with bottles. A garden area allows children to “pick” fruits and vegetables from synthetic ground, and there are also simple horse, pig, cow and chicken costume robes children can wear on the farm.
“What I like so much about this exhibit is … this is the type of exhibit where kids interact with each other a lot, so they immediately go into role-playing mode,” Hess said. “We’ve got kids with costumes on and they’re real busy — it’s a very urgent day on the farm.”
The Farm to Market prototype is mostly complete, though officials would like to add a mural of farmland in the room and expand the market area, which currently includes bins of plastic food, shopping carts and a cash register.
“I have a few grant requests out to build this piece out, and we want to keep really focusing on the healthy food aspect, of course,” she said.
In the full “Farm to Table” experience of the future museum, children will tend to animals and gather, sort and pack crops at the farm. Then they will follow the food to the market, where they can stock the shelves and work the register. Finally, they’ll see a cook from a diner get food from the market and follow it to the diner, where they’ll learn about eating healthy foods.
The prototypes already completed are the H2Oh! and Build Your Own Raceways exhibits. Work continues on the Tinkerspace prototype — at the end of the month, the museum will premier “Big Blue Builders,” described as giant tinker toys, in the exhibit.
And the next prototype exhibit is on its way, once the museum is able to raise some more funds.
“We are hopeful that we are going to be able to do a veterinarian’s office in the fall,” Hess said. “I’m working really hard on it because that exhibit totally rocks.”
The exhibit would expand the current “Healthy Kids” room, which focuses on hospital role-playing and human biology, by bringing in an animal health aspect called “Ready, Vet, Go!” fabricated by the Children’s Museum of Denver.
Beyond that, in the spring the museum hopes to protoype a “super service station” where children work on automobiles, an exhibit fabricated by the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee.
Those exhibits are both designed as modular and movable, so if the museum moves to a new facility within the five-year lifespan of the exhibits, they can be easily relocated.
“We’re working on freshening the experience here, and we want to make sure that we really find that balance between keeping the experience very strong for our visitors who come every day, so they can have a great exhibit experience and great programs right now, but have everything that we do help us learn and grow for the future,” Hess said.