Midwest Travel: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
May 22, 2014 12:45PM
By Julie Henning
Founded by the premise "Please do touch," a visit to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is meant to be a "family" experience, meaning that children of all ages (even those of us still young at heart) can learn from the real scientists, artists, and humanists who were employed in the creation of the exhibits, programs, events, and educational material available to museum patrons.
Mixing play with education, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has tackled big subjects like racism, conservation and global awareness. As an example, The Power of Children exhibit features the powerful stories of three extraordinary 20th-century children—Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. In the new Take Me There: China exhibit, children learn about the challenges involved panda conservation as they care for baby pandas in a field hospital.
Other museum highlights include dinosaurs, a carousel, giant indoor playscape playground, planetarium, theater, and Fireworks of Glass, a five-story blown glass sculpture commissioned by Dale Chihuly (click here to read about the complete exhibit list). Truthfully, I spent the better part of an entire day at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis and felt like I barely scratched the surface. If we lived anywhere in greater Indianapolis, we'd certainly have a membership. In addition to Take Me There China, the Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperors Army exhibit is currently running through November 2, 2014. The only U.S. appearance of the exhibit in 2014, many people consider the warriors the Eighth Wonder of the World. In addition to eight life-size clay soldiers, the display features more than 100 other artifacts believed to have been ordered by China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi to protect him in the after-life. The museum charges an additional fee to tour this exhibit (admission is timed and current museum members receive a 60% discount). Children will enjoy playing musical instruments, dressing in warrior costumes, assembling "broken" warriors, and playing with clay in the molding and casting room.
Partnering with the museum this year is Dr. David Wolf, the museum's first Scientist-in-Residence and retired NASA astronaut who spent a combined 168 days in space on four different missions (including time building the International Space Station). Building upon existing STEM/STEAM principles and the nation's only biotechnology laboratory created specifically for children and families, to include space exploration, Dr. Wolf is partnering with Purdue University to create a future museum exhibit dedicated to the importance of space exploration and advancements in leadership and technology.
Employed as Teachers in Residence, musician Ms. Ma Lan and calligrapher Ms. Chen Lin can be found in the Take Me There: China exhibit giving demonstrations on the Guzheng or painting Mandarin symbols (using water and a giant brush) on the floor.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has also taken measures towards combating childhood obesity by offering wellness items in the museum cafeteria. Patrons can order from the Mindful Menu or purchase healthy snacks like mandarin oranges, grapes, cottage cheese, or applesauce made daily from locally-sourced organic apples.
Families interested in visiting The Children's Museum of Indianapolis on a dime can take advantage of free museum admission during Target Free Family Nights the first Thursday of each month from 4-8PM. Note that museum parking is free and access between the parking garage and main building is either the front door or the covered crosswalk (this is the preferred option in winter months). Parents and teachers looking to prepare for (or extend) a museum visit might consider downloading one of the Classroom Resources available on the museum website.
For more information on what to do in Indianapolis, read some of my suggestions in this story. Enjoy these additional photos taken during my recent trip to the The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: