Discovery Center Gets Kids Jumping, Spelling, Counting in Local Parks
Local kids will find some educational, fun new additions to the pavement at ten parks and community centers in Topeka. The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center installed and activated the outdoor Discovery Play Spaces in Shawnee County parks to encourage kids to learn and play. The project was funded by Shawnee County Coronavirus Relief Funds for Community Based Programs.
“Every sidewalk has the potential to become a place to play and explore,” said Dene’ Mosier president and CEO of the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. “This project is one way we are bringing educational play out of the museum and into the community.”
“Our parks and trails have been essential during the pandemic, providing families a chance to get out of the house and enjoy the benefits of being in nature and being active,” said Tim Laurent, director, Shawnee County Parks + Recreation. ”This project extends that opportunity by adding a new, fun element that families can enjoy with their children.”
Each vinyl circle is designed to encourage physical activity and serve an educational purpose. The installation is fully bilingual in English and Spanish. The first circle encourages pattern identification, comparing and contrasting, the second has engaging letters to allow spelling, the third shows two colors and shapes overlapping to create a unique color and shape, the fourth circle encourages counting, and the final circle asks children to create rhythm and noise using hands, feet, and other tools. The Discovery Space also serves as a seek and find, with hidden stars on each circle. A footprint jumping path connects the circles. The Discovery Space was designed by Topeka artist Sara O’Keeffe working alongside the museum’s education team.
The Discovery Play Space project is the latest in a series of community-based play programs from the Discovery Center during the pandemic. Shortly after closing the building in March, museum staff called and emailed thousands of local families to find out about their needs and responded with online activity videos and learning kit deliveries. Activities helped families use play to explore science, technology, engineering, art and math. Discovery at Home online videos were viewed over 400,000 times, and nearly 3,000 learning kits were distributed. Museum programs have specifically targeted low-income and underserved children, out of concern for learning gaps created by limited access to educational resources for many families during the pandemic.
Discovery Play Space locations were selected in partnership with Shawnee County Parks + Recreation to activate play opportunities, particularly in underserved communities. Locations are: