Far too often, I hear people in Evansville complain that there is nothing to do in our city. With my new mantra of “Engage. Encourage. Experience,” I hope to silence the critics and show the Tri-State some of our hidden gems with a blog series, “12 Days of Local.” What better time than the holiday season to encourage “keeping it local”?
Being a former preschool educator and advocate, I started my journey at the Koch Family Children’s Museum, aka “CMOE” to the children of the Tri-State area. Rather than look like a creepy old lady and explore by myself, I took my five year old nephew Collin. Sure, I could review it as a former teacher, but what better reviewer than the target demo? There is no one more honest than a child.
We arrived shortly after CMOE opened and were promptly greeted by a young cashier who asked if we had been there before. Collin instantly replied, “I have but she hasn’t.” The young lady quickly responded by asking what his favorite parts were and if he felt comfortable “showing me the ropes.” He grinned, high-fived her and said, “I got this.” She laughed and said, “You’re my official tour guide.” The manner in which she engaged him made the check-in process much easier for both adult and child.
Ready to see our first exhibit, we went to the “Quack Factory,” which in my opinion is one of the better exhibits at any children’s museum in the Midwest.
Starting at the Wet Deck, I knew we were in for a good time. CMOE provides water boots and jackets for the children. Unfortunately for Collin, I failed to see the wet gear until after he fell into the “ball wash.” Luckily, the staff showed me where the t-shirts were and for a mere $10, I was able to get him a new one, which doubled as a souvenir. Bonus points for the price – most attractions in the area are higher priced. We returned to the Wet Deck and studied cause and effect, how water flows, density and rhythms without incident.
Next up was Speak Loud. This area offers an array of activities, such as face painting, performing arts, drawing, literacy activities and a hands-on music area. In the span of thirty minutes, Collin was a cinematographer, an actor in “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, a Ninja Turtle and a rockstar. All the activities were monitored by a member of the staff who was close enough to supervise, but far enough away to let the children explore the areas by themselves. Extra kudos went to the staff who saw parents struggling with how to play and modeled ways to engage.
Downstairs there was a traveling exhibit, showing how things are made. We assembled a neighborhood trolley, similar to the ones that used to run on Main Street, found out how molds are made for footballs and designed our own bowls to take home. After we colored the bowls, a staff member put them in a machine and explained to us how it was formed into a bowl shape. Collin asked him several questions, all of which he took the time to answer and made sure Collin understood what he was saying. He even asked Collin to make an extra bowl for my niece, who was not with us that day. Again, the staff went the extra mile for us.
To finish our day, we ended up in the Work Smart area. Here we built Lego cars, which we then raced. This reminded me of the SoapBox Derby cars we used to make as a kid. By trying new designs to beat my car, Collin was learning about aerodynamics and cause/effect without even realizing it. We built a bridge, using metal connectors and rods, which we tested with our own weight. Finally, we developed our fine motor skills by digging in the crystals, looking for items. Again, learning without effort.
If you have never been to CMOE, I highly encourage you to visit soon. From the minute you walk in the door, the staff is friendly and encouraging. They go the extra mile to make sure you have an enjoyable experience. Make sure you visit their website to see the Gingerbread House event this Saturday, too. You won’t be disappointed!