Friday, May 17, 2013

Adventure in Kansas City: Johnson County Museum - KidScape!

We recently had the joy of visiting Kansas City, MO, for three days. While Ben was in work meetings, the kids and I explored the city. My only requirement for our outings were that they would be free and educational. This is the fourth installment of our adventures there. 

One of the stops we made in Kansas City that surprised me the most: the Johnson County Museum. I expected a local historical society and a gathering of local artifacts to be housed in the historical looking old building, but I had no idea what fun we were in for! I really could not believe it was free, and by the end of my tour, I was all too happy to drop some cash in the donation box.

We entered into their lobby/gift store, and were quickly drawn into the first exhibit by colorful signs and the sounds of children laughing and playing. The very first hall, called KidScape, was a "hands on suburban street-scape, where kids can explore community." I couldn't really describe it any better than that!

There was a hall lined with playhouse sized buildings that looked like any small downtown. Each one had hands on things to do that made the kids feel like they were part of the city. It was complete with a city park that had golf (via a Wii) and fishing (magnetic fish on a painted pond). Tyler loved this part the best. Wyatt's favorite was the post office, where he quickly figured out that the little wooden letters all fit in the mail bag on the wall, which he donned and began delivering mail up and down the "street". Emma and Mayda worked away making beaded jewelry in the "boutique" and then wandered down to the "hospital" where Emma performed surgery while Mayda attended to some sick baby-dolls.

We enjoyed the KidScape exhibit hall for over an hour. Then we looked around the corner and saw that the whole museum wound around through a maze of exhibits and actually ended at KidScape. We had gotten ahead of the game. :) We backtracked to the lobby and checked out a free iPod audio tour "board" and began the tour at the beginning.

Through period artifacts and photos, the story of the local area unfolded in a way that is repeatable in any now-suburban, once-frontier county. The kids learned of the local American-Indian tribes and the ways in which the local settlers negotiated and re-negotiated the land use. There were hands on exhibits like a puzzle with pieces that didn't all fit, showing how they couldn't cut up the county in any way that made farmers, developers, and natives all happy. The path followed the history of development from wild prairie to Kansas City suburb in a colorful and interesting way that my kids were able to follow. Every juncture there was a clearly posted number for the audio tour track.

The coolest part were the "KidScape" type exhibits scattered throughout the museum. At every turn was a hands on corner or small playhouse where the kids could step into that moment in history and play the part.

  • A farmhouse complete with gingham aprons and chicken hutch by the door. 
  • A railway station platform where you could experience sitting on the bench waiting for the commuter train to the city. 
  • A play store where kids can shop for goods from the farms.

After following the story to the present day, where the exhibit asks lots of good questions about our consumeristic lifestyles today, then the whole thing wraps up by ending at KidScape, where the kids can play at suburban life for a while.

I visited with the curator for a while, and he told me that the Funville exhibit downtown (see last week's post about Hallmark and the Crown Center) was a copy of the idea, and was built by the same man who designed their one-of-a-kind exhibit. He is evidently a Broadway set designer and created these wonderful scenes for children to interact within.

We picked up some postcards and were on our way, and were SO very glad we didn't write this stop off as "too locally oriented". So, check out the local museums, even if you aren't a local person. You may just be surprised what you find!


This post is part of our Adventure Fridays series. If you'd like to join us, we'd love to have you return every Friday for something new! If you have a field trip to share, add the button on the right to your post and feel free to link up HERE. 

As always, I would welcome a guest post here on my blog about some place fun you've been. If you have something yet-unpublished to submit, please use the contact tab above to let me know. 

©2012-2013 Loving and Learning on the High Plains. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I always wonder if my words are encouraging to you, so please leave a comment!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...