Tulsa Children’s Museum Opens this Month

Tulsa’s “Museum without Walls” will soon have some, along with doors, floors and a roof. The Tulsa Children’s Museum is moving into a renovated facility in Owen Park, the city’s first and oldest park, located near Tulsa Country Club, just north of I-244. Saturday May 25 through Monday May 27, the museum is celebrating the grand opening of its Discovery Lab with a weekend of activities, including a free concert with Grammy nominated musician Justin Roberts. Right in time for the long days of summer, The Discovery Lab promises hours of fun, learning and play in the heart of the city.

The idea for a children’s museum in Tulsa was the inspiration of a group of parents and professionals back in 2007. Since that time, Tulsa Children’s Museum has used mobile outreach programming to bring educational hands-on learning experiences to over 43,000 children and their families through area schools and at community events. Meanwhile, planning, searching and fundraising have been underway to find a home for TCM, its offices and exhibits. Transforming Owen Park’s Recreation Center into TCM’s Discovery Lab provided a solution. While TCM plans to eventually build a larger, permanent facility, the 12,000 square feet of renovated space in the park will allow TCM to provide unique exhibits and educational programming to the public in the interim.

Programming at the Discovery Lab is designed for kids ages 2-12 and their families. Many of the exhibits incorporate different art media with components of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One example is the “Make Shop,” a hands-on tinkering and innovation space that encourages experimentation, invention and creation.

Anitra Lavanhar, one of TCM’s founding board members, was inspired by the “maker space” exhibits she saw when visiting other children’s museums in the U.S. She’s thrilled to see a similar space included in the Discovery Lab. “This was a place where kids and their families were really lingering, spending an hour or half a day creating or making things together,” she commented.  In the Make Shop, “we’ll be mixing old world craft with modern technologies,” Lavanhar explained. “We’re looking at themes from fiber arts to light painting with photography, or working with electronics creating little movable robots, things with a large engineering and design element to it.” Visitors to the Make Shop will have a chance to work with age-appropriate “real-world” tools and materials, and the exhibit has the added bonus of being “green.”  “Most of the materials we use are recyclables. We have a real commitment to sustainability, and that’s a great way to do it,” Lavanhar noted.
The Discovery Lab is open until 5 p.m. each day of opening weekend. Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday and 9:30 a.m. Monday. Tickets are $5 for adults and children and are available at the door. Entry will be on a timed basis this weekend, to ensure that visitors have access to the exhibits. Annual memberships start at $40 and can be purchased at the door or online at www.tulsachildrensmuseum.org For a sneak peak, consider purchasing a membership in advance to enjoy special members-only hours May 20-24.

Outdoor activities at the park opening weekend are free. Bring a picnic, or buy your lunch from one of the food truck vendors who will be on site. On Sunday afternoon, enjoy a free concert with The Justin Roberts Trio, performing at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Roberts is a star in the indie family music scene. His latest album Jungle Gym received a Grammy nomination, and his albums have been among “Amazon.com Top 10 Children’s CDs of the Year” on four occasions. Tulsa’s own Travis Fite and Arthur Thompson will also perform. On Monday, the Calliope Circus will be leading and teaching tumbling, juggling and other circus-related activities.

JulieJulie Wenger Watson is a freelance writer who’s worked in all aspects of music promotion. She’s also Co-Director of “Live From Cain’s,” a public radio show pilot.