Children’s Museum Plans New Exhibit to Inspire Activity Among Kids

Tom Giffey

NOSTALGIA TRIP. A planned exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire will include a familiar-looking rocket.
NOSTALGIA TRIP. A planned exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire will include a familiar-looking rocket.

The fabled “rocket slide” is returning to Earth … sort of.

The Children’s Museum of Eau Claire recently unveiled plans to add several new displays to its second floor that will emphasize healthy lifestyles to kids.The upcoming “Eat! Move! Live!” exhibit is expected to be open by next summer, said Mike McHorney, the museum’s executive director.

The centerpiece of the new exhibit will be “Rocket Park,” which will include a multilevel climbing area of tubes, stairs, and platforms connected to a four-level “rocket” that pays homage to the slide that stood in Carson Park from the 1960s to the 1990s. (If you weren’t a kid in Eau Claire during that era, ask someone who was, and they’ll likely have fond and/or harrowing memories of the original playground contraption.) According to the museum, the exhibit will give children “an opportunity to move their bodies, improve strength and coordination, and allow them to run off some energy during Wisconsin’s long winters.”

The second big component of the new exhibit, called “Shape Up,” will resemble a life-sized game board that will pose a variety of physical challenges to kids, from climbing a rock wall to balancing on a path of “stones.” Both “Rocket Park” and “Shape Up” will replace most of the existing elements on the second floors, which are about five years old and have been well-loved by thousands of children. However, a few familiar things will remain, including the fishing boat (which will be incorporated into “Shape Up”) as well as “Miss Cathy’s Barn” (more than a few kids and adults would be upset if Oreo, the milkable cow, was removed).

Finally, a small test kitchen will be built along a wall that currently holds a sink and counter. The kitchen will provide opportunities for parents and children to learn to cook new foods and even bring them home to eat.

The exhibit will cost approximately $183,000, about $105,000 of which has already been raised through grants from Sheels and Mayo Clinic Health System. The museum is a two-year recipient of a Mayo’s Hometown Health Grant, which is designed to improve overall community health, including preventing obesity and reducing chronic diseases. The new exhibit fits well with those goals, said Jay Edenborg, public affairs director for Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. “Starting those habits as a child inspires the family,” he said. “Children bring what they learn home to the family.”

The exhibit will be built by KidZibits of St. Paul, which is responsible for many of the museum’s attractions, including Body Smarts and Water Works. McHorney said he expects the second floor to be closed for remodeling for several weeks next year when the new exhibit is installed.

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