Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Chapel Hill children's museum to reopen March 31

Posted March 20, 2015
Updated March 22, 2015

The museum's popular Gravitron has its own spot at the museum.

Kidzu Children's Museum in Chapel Hill will reopen this month at a new and expanded location inside University Mall.

It's the latest home for the museum, which has bounced from spots along Franklin Street to University Mall over the last few years as it seeks a permanent home. It's been closed since mid-January as crews prepared the latest space. A special ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m., March 31. I'll have the opportunity to share an early look at the new digs next week.

The new, 8,500-square-foot Launch Pad, as it's called, offers more room for summer camps, birthday parties, special programs and exhibits. Museum leaders are working to provide a multi-sensory, play-centered space that's focused on providing babies to tweens and their families, teachers and caregivers a variety of exhibits and programs that inspire creativity, collaboration and community, according to a press release. Kidzu leaders expect to remain in the latest space for at least three years.

Since Kidzu opened in 2006, originally in a small space on Franklin Street, the museum has drawn more than 250,000 visitors. The new Launch Pad will focus on so-called S.T.E.A.M activities - science, technology, engineering, arts and math, along with health and well-being and early literacy. Kidzu regularly collaborates with local artists, authors, scientists and others on programs, exhibits and activities.

“We’re excited to share the new Launch Pad with our growing audience of children and families,” said Kidzu exeuctive director Pam Wall in a press release. “Our previous attendance demonstrated the need for a children’s museum within our community, and we project welcoming nearly 100,000 visitors in the coming year."

I've had a chance to see some of the plans for the new Launch Pad, which will offer some very active and innovative exhibits for kids. The Makery, where kids can make, create and tinker using all kinds of machines and materials; the popular Gravitron; Book Nook for stories; and Farm to Fork exhibits will return.

But new exhibits also are planned for the space. They include a Flexible Forest, a large-scale climbing wall and treehouse with a crow's nest that lets kids look out from 10 feet in the air. Underneath the treehouse is the Discovery Den, which offers nature-based play for little ones. A mini performance space inspired by UNC-Chapel Hill's Forest Theater will offer a place for kids to tell stories and perform.

And there's more, including oversized ramps and blocks for kids to build with and have fun.

“As the fastest growing segment of the museum industry, children’s museums have an enormous impact on a community and on those children and families they serve,” said Lisa Van Deman, Kidzu's education director, in the release. “Kidzu firmly believes the best investment any community can make is in high quality, innovative early learning experiences, widely and readily accessible to all children and their families, particularly those in need. Our exhibits and programs are infused with the spirit of our local community and help area children build a foundation of creativity, capability and confidence that will serve them throughout their lives.”

I'll have a lot more next week. So stay tuned!


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