Saturday, January 11, 2020

Slides, Slime, SpongeBob And Science: Peek Inside The National Children’s Museum’s New Washington, D.C. Home

Slides, Slime, SpongeBob And Science: Peek Inside The National Children’s Museum’s New Washington, D.C. Home

A rendering of the outside of the "slime center." Photo credit: Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU.

Update (1/11/2020) - The National Children's Museum in Washington, D.C. will reopen at the end of January 2020! Additionally, the museum will welcome Nickelodeon’s Dora and Diego: Let’s Explore!, an interactive exhibit for preschoolers presented in Spanish and English, in February 2020!


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presented by + developed in partnership with Nickelodeon

Tap into your creativity with iconic friends and activities from Nickelodeon, including SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, and slime. Not to worry – the slime is virtual so you can experience all the fun without any of the mess!

The Washington, D.C. region has technically been home to a children’s museum for 45 years, but for the past decade it’s been pretty hard to find.

A brief backstory: In 1974, the Capital Children’s Museum opened in an old brick nunnery near Union Station. Congress rechristened it the National Children’s Museum in 2003. A developer purchased its building a year later and museum operated as a “museum without walls” for the next five years. Then, it reemerged in 2009 in a small preview space in National Harbor. Three years after that, it upgraded to a storefront there, but unfortunately shuttered again in 2015.

Plaza and Mezzanine Level Floor Plan for The National Children’s Museum, DC. Photo credit: Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU.

At that point, its board promised it would return the institution to Washington, D.C. Still following?

The saga ends, ostensibly, this November. The National Children’s Museum is scheduled to reopen in a 33,000-square foot space in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest!

“When we reopen, we will really be a science center and a children’s museum in one,” Crystal Bowyer, the museum’s president and CEO, told WAMU.

She was wearing a white construction hat and looking around at what will eventually be the science and technology-focused museum’s entrance hall. Its pièce de résistance will be the “dream machine,” a 50-foot slide and climbing structure that children can use to enter the museum.

The most common question Bowyer gets is whether adults can go down the slide. "The answer is yes," she says. Photo credit: Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU.

“I knew that we needed something magical at the point of entry,” Bowyer added. She was thrilled when she got the go-ahead last year to knock out a major section of the floor of what used to be a steakhouse to build the two-story contraption.

It was designed by the Bay Area firm Gyroscope. Credit: National Children's Museum.

The original Capital Children’s Museum of the 1970s was known for homey, tactile attractions like taco-making and giant bubble wands.

Not so with the new iteration. Its exhibitions will all be STEAM-focused — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — with an emphasis on combined digital and hands-on learning aimed at children up to the age of 12.

The National Children’s Museum will include a SpongeBob-inspired interactive area, sponsored by Nickelodeon. Rendering: National Children's Museum

Programming will include everything from an interactive exhibit that allows kids to control the weather through a green screen, to SpongeBob SquarePants and slime-themed areas sponsored by Nickelodeon. According to a renderings, the SpongeBob SquarePants-themed room, pictured above, will be set in Bikini Bottom, the undersea home of SpongeBob, and will feature lots activities inspired by Nickelodeon's hit animated series, and the Nickelodeon Slime area, pictured below, will include a “slime wheel,” “tactile floor,” “overhead inflatables,” "freezer flaps", "pool noodles," "randomized jets of air" and a “randomized splat and ooze projection theater.” The area will also feature a "mirror," "viewing window," and a "every spin is a winner!" game.

Plans for the Nickelodeon-sponsored "slime center." Photo: Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU.

In Data Science Alley, kids will learn about data collection, data footprints, and social media. Over in the Engineering, Games and Play section, older children will be able to design cars and manipulate race tracks as part of a design-build challenge, while younger kids amuse themselves in a gymnastics-themed zone.

There will also be quiet areas for children with sensory sensitivities or autism and private rooms that mothers can use to nurse their babies.

They’re also bringing back the Bubble Room. The decision came after surveying Washingtonians about their favorite experiences at the original museum. Unsurprisingly, the opportunity to create a giant bubble around yourself ranked right at the top. The museum is currently raising funds to bring the Bubble Room back to life, and is accepting donations from the public. For more details and to donate, please visit https://www.nationalchildrensmuseum.org/bubble-room-campaign.

National Children’s Museum president and CEO Crystal Bowyer stands inside what will be the museum’s main exhibition hall. Photo: Mikaela Lefrak / WAMU.

Bowyer is still in the midst of raising the $15 million needed to open the museum. She said she’s “very close” to the goal but declined to specify exact figures. If needed, she said, the museum could always take out a line of credit to complete construction on schedule.

The money that’s already come in hails from individual donors, corporations, philanthropies, and the D.C. government, which contributed $1 million in grant funding. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is sponsoring 80 field trips for low-income schools, including the price of entry, bus transportation and lunches.

The financial struggles of other private museums in Washington aren’t lost on Bowyer. She said her institution is a stable position because it’s renting space from the federal government rather than constructing a new building, as had once been the plan.

Still, she sees the Newseum as a cautionary tale. Even though it attracted more than 800,000 visitors a year, the Newseum recently announced it would be selling its flagship building on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“It’s unfortunate when you see that happen, but luckily that won’t be a problem here,” Bowyer said.

The National Children’s Museum is scheduled to open in November 2019. Tickets will cost $10.95. For more information, please visit https://www.nationalchildrensmuseum.org.

From Our Community Now:

Other soon to be popular exhibits are the Nickelodeon Slime Center and Games and Play. Sponsored by the children’s television network, the Nickelodeon exhibition will have a slime wheel and a television studio with a green screen. The games room will have a variety of interactive games and a physical gymnastics area. The museum is also bringing back a favorite from the past, the Bubble Room. This room allows entrants to envelop themselves in a giant bubble.

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More Nick: PAW Patrol: Adventure Play Helps Save The Day at The World’s Largest Children’s Museum!

Originally published: Sunday, March 10, 2019.

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