Just for Kids

When Lisa Wilson moved to Louisville from Long Island, NY six years ago, she was astonished that a city of such size could be without a children’s museum. The museum she remembers in Long Island started out with only 4,000 square-feet, but quickly grew to 50,000, with lines of families snaking the sidewalks outside, waiting for their turn to experience exhibit after exhibit of kid-centered, educational hullaballoo.

Louisville currently joins Detroit as one of only two cities in America’s 30 largest that does not have a children’s museum. And while yes, we have the Science Center, a very child-oriented venue for education, Wilson says that because the Science Center’s focus is on—well, science—there are gaps in the Center’s offerings.

Wilson says a children’s museum would not only fill those gaps, but also provide even more options for Louisville’s juice-box drinking population. The former teacher, and mother of three young’uns, ages 5, 7 and 11, seems most excited about creating a focus on multicultural education and health and fitness. Wilson imagines that the museum would include 7 or 8 child-sized houses to represent countries from around the world. Inside each would be food (or inedible representations of it), clothes, games, furniture and art from the country the house represents. She even envisions a screen inside the house playing a video of a child talking about what his or her day is like.

Wilson sees a health and fitness area geared towards kids as a way to fight the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, and also as a way to bolster our city’s Healthy Hometown initiative. But according to her kids, it’s just plain fun. Wilson says that her kids can spend 2 hours in the 5,000 square-foot fitness area at the children’s museum in Columbus, Indiana, monkeying around on balance-boards, playing hopscotch, shooting hoops, learning dance and riding stationary bikes set up with video screens that put kids on a virtual mountain-pass. I gotta say, I’m thinking of transferring my gym membership.

Wilson is also planning an area dedicated to our dear city. The Louisville exhibit would include a water-table created to represent the Ohio River, replicas of the Ville’s landmark buildings and kid-oriented walking tours of the city. The museum would also provide an opportunity for kids to try their hands at art projects with featured local artisans. Wilson says that she envisions rotating exhibits, as well, to keep the content fresh and exciting.

Overall support for the museum seems fairly strong. Four other board members join Lisa Wilson in leading the movement, which already has 1,000 respondents to its online survey, and has received 70 emails from eager volunteers. JCPS is on board as well, seeing the museum as a first-class field trip destination. Wilson says that she views the museum as a compliment to traditional education. She plans to find out from Jefferson County teachers which subjects are difficult to teach in the classroom, without hands-on experiences for students. The museum could create exhibits and activities to meet these needs.

So far, Wilson and the board have met with the Downtown Development Corporation, and several local philanthropists, many of whom have showed interest. The movement is looking for a 15,000 square-foot space in downtown Louisville to set up camp, and donations and volunteers to get the project up and running, which will happen, Wilson says, within the next couple years.

If you ask me, this project seems like a great idea. It sounds like a place where kids can learn to love learning. Better yet, there are no dinosaur-mounted cavemen or ark encounters involved—something I can’t say for another certain kid-oriented attraction that’s being written into our state budget right now. If  you’d like to find out more or throw some support behind Lisa Wilson and the Louisville Children’s Museum, visit http://www.louisvillechildrensmuseum.org/.