Part of the joy of living in Colorado is easy access to the great outdoors—but not all kids have that ability. The new outdoor experience area (pictured, in part, in front of a rendering of the renovated museum) includes canyons, caves, sand dunes, and rivers for children to explore and get dirty in. There's even a zipline and a bouldering area. The year-round play area will turn into a sledding hill in the winter. But the fun doesn't end there. Inside, a three-and-a-half-story climbing structure celebrates, in Yankovich's words, the "adventure and diversity of Colorado" with a gondola, aspen trees, rope bridges, and more.
Kids can get hands-on in a 2,300-square-foot art studio, replete with a glass wall for painting on, a collaborative painting project, a clay studio with kilns, and a Colorado artist-in-residence program.
What kid doesn't like to play with water? This 2,200-square-foot urban water system is fun (think a rainstorm maker and raindrop percussion)—and walks kids through the properties and characteristics of water, including flow, density, and buoyancy. Don't worry, parents: There are body dryers for the kiddos to use before they leave.
Wind energy, solar energy, and fossil fuels will all be part of your child's vocabulary after they experiment to discover how different resources can power many things. They'll launch rockets and hot air balloons, play on a whoopee cushion wall, and—the coolest part—strap wings on and step into a wind tunnel.
If kids know where their food comes from, they're more likely to better understand how—and why—to make healthier choices, Yankovich says. This teaching kitchen includes a terrace container garden and aquaponics grow system, kid-size tables and utensils, and a demo counter where kids will learn recipes for the fresh food they pick. The importance of a healthy lifestyle will be reiterated in the Village of Healthy Smiles, which contains Brush Together Cottage and the Tooth Fairy's Workshop.
The Children's Museum of Denver is growing up.
Yesterday, president and CEO Mike Yankovich announced the groundbreaking for a $15.8 million, nine-acre campus (including renovations to the current building) with two new wings, a slew of one-of-a-kind exhibits, a year-round outdoor experience area, and a new name: The Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. "We have a critical role to play in Colorado's early childhood education community," Yankovich said. The new site "will support school readiness: math, science, literacy, and 21st-century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and resiliency."
It's a necessary transformation. Overcrowding has long been a problem at CMoD: Since 2003, museum attendance has grown 73 percent, and to about 350,000 people annually. Sara Carpenter, chair of the museum's board of directors, called CMoD "the most crowded children's museum in the country." The new site will more than double the square footage, both inside and outside (including additional parking), and is expected to serve about 450,000 people in its first year. A dedicated school group entrance will create breathing room in the public entryway. Perhaps even more exciting: Sponsored admissions (a program for low-income children and their families) will be handed out to around 25,000 students and teachers (a 66 percent increase from previously). Exhibits will open on a rolling basis, starting in late summer, and the museum will remain open throughout construction.
"Denver is going to be a world-class city because of our future: investing in our young people," said councilman Albus Brooks at yesterday's press conference. "The Children's Museum is such an important piece of that future."
Bonus: Read more about the museum's dedication to learning through play.
Click through the slideshow to see what you—and your kids—can expect from the new museum.
—All images courtesy of the Children's Museum of Denver