The wait continues for a much-needed and overdue children’s museum in the nation’s capital — but it will be well worth it. Originally slated as the grand opening celebration, this past Saturday’s Family Celebration at the National Children’s Museum was instead a sneak peek at the learning disguised as amusement park-like fun that will be made available to the public this holiday season.
Hundreds were dazzled with modernized, interactive STEAM exhibits in what is positioned as the first children’s museum-slash-science center. Believe it or not, Washington, DC, with its plentitude of museums and culture, is the only major city without either.
The National Children’s Museum is making up for lost time with new-age ideas and social impact-focused goals — plus tons of creative play spaces for even the littlest ones. Kids can learn physics through Nationals-branded pitching and batting exhibits, explore the technology of filmmaking with SpongeBob, and discover their superpower with the Climate Action Heroes roadmap.
The pièce de résistance may be the miniature car race track that teaches kids principles of design and engineering with high-speed excitement. After tweaking and adorning their wooden cars, kids watch as a mechanical lift raises their vehicles to the starting line. Ready, set, go… cars race down the track, lights flashing, and the most aerodynamic one wins. Overhead a screen shows detailed stats from the races. Barring a long waiting line, kids can experience the cycle of design, test, re-design.
There is also a Tinkerers Studio, set up like a 21st century classroom, which will be home to school and group field trips, as well as workshops and unguided open studio hours. Equipped with everything from colored paper for art projects to laptops for creative coding projects, the Studio will allow kids to combine the tools of STEAM to create and learn. Notably, teachers from Title I public and charter schools in Washington, DC can request free field trips, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
And all of this was just the lower concourse level. The main level will boast the Dream Machine entryway, a two-story slide that transports visitors to the wonderland of exhibits, a playzone, café, and gift shop. There appears to be much work left to be done to make all of this visitor-ready, but workshops are already being listed online for early December, which are free with general admission. (Admission will be $10.95 for children over the age of one and adults, and membership packages are expected to range from $75 to $150.)
Due to the Nationals’ World Series parade coinciding with the Family Celebration, another similar sneak peek day may be offered prior to opening. Stay tuned to the National Children’s Museum website for updates on the opening, events, workshops, and more!