First Look: Orlando Science Center reveals grand plan for New KidsTown
Orlando Science Center has developed a multi-year plan based on the last five years of steady growth, and part of that plan is expanding one of its most popular areas.
“Attendance and revenue have increased by 45 percent,” said Orlando Science Center Public Relations Director Jeff Stanford, citing traveling exhibits, events and community partnerships as essential growth factors. “The next phase is for us to become more of a partner in the community.”
The age group that accounts for the majority of the science center’s attendance is right under your nose, literally. “Some of our most popular exhibits were Clifford the Big Red Dog and Curious George,” Stanford said. The age 7-and-under crowd is a powerful demographic, and the science center is stepping up with an expansion of its most popular kid-themed area, KidsTown.
Currently, KidsTown resides on the lower floor and is made up of hands-on exhibits, play rooms and the Orange Grove: A popular immersive experience that lets kids experience “work” in one of Central Florida’s most recognized industries. Everything from problem solving to teamwork and good old-fashioned physical activity are highlighted in KidsTown, and it’s that mentality that has pollinated the new plans. Exhibits will include everything from toddler development to nature and science education, even art appreciation in an 11,000-square-foot space on the second level. The common thread through every exhibit is STEM.
“We’ve always wanted to promote the understanding that STEM can be fun as well as educational,” Stanford said. Developing that understanding in the formative years will not only give kids the right start, it will bring them back when they’ve graduated to the next level. “We want to make the science center a cradle-to-career learning experience.”
And speaking of ongoing learning experiences, parents are a big part of the New KidsTown equation. Not only will parents be welcome to join their kids in many of the interactive experiences, there will be parenting seminars on everything from health and wellness to saving up for college.
New KidsTown will occupy roughly half of the second floor. Infrastructure has already begun, thanks to a recently acquired facility grant from Orange County. Second-floor widening is under way by the currant retail space, which will trade places with ticketing at the far end of the current space. Moving KidsTown would open up about 3,000 square feet of first floor space that would eventually house an expansion of the current NatureWorks exhibit.
Future progress on New KidsTown is dependent on funding, which the science center team is closing in on. About $2 million of the $4.5 million needed to develop the 11,000-square-foot project, including the exhibits, has been accounted for, and if all goes to plan, the New KidsTown guest experience will be ready in late 2015 or early 2016.
Check the slideshow for a first look at detailed renderings of each area of New KidsTown: http://bit.ly/1qLCIxp.