If you find your community is lacking a resource, don’t complain; do something about it! This is what two moms in Stillwater did when they got their community involved in creating a fun, educational and interactive children’s museum. It took Dena Cornforth and Kandi Speer 10 years to bring their dream to life, but on October 15, the WONDERtorium celebrated its grand opening.
The idea for the WONDERtorium was sparked when Cornforth and Speers found themselves driving miles away from home to share quality, educational playtime with their young children. They recognized that a local venue would provide families like theirs with a valuable resource.
The mothers formed a committee, founded a non-profit in 2001 and spent years conducting research, explained Ruth Cavins, the museum’s executive director. Parents and kids were surveyed about what kind of exhibits they would like to see if there was a children’s activity center in Stillwater. Armed with this information, the mothers sought community donations.
A Museum Without Walls
While working toward the ultimate goal of a physical location, the mothers used what they had learned and incoming donations to start a Museum without Walls program in 2006, bringing educational activities into the classroom. Combining lecture with hands-on activities, the program is free support for teachers and focuses on creating quality academics that meet the teachers’ curriculum requirements, Cavins said.
Cavins laughs as she explains how staff members load up their cars with the lesson materials, haul everything into the school and then back into the car. It’s been a rewarding endeavor, reaching over 16,000 students since it began, according to Cavins.
While the Museum without Walls program brings activities to the classroom, the WONDERtorium invites families to visit and share in the same types of educational activities.
“We want the grown-ups to be physically and emotionally involved with their children,” explains Cavins. “Our exhibits engage creativity, not only with children, but with grown-ups, too.” Cavins explains that the museum also serves as a mentor for parenting. “We all need help with parenting.” With a mission “to inspire curiosity to learn through play… for a lifetime,” the museum is an opportunity for parents to learn how to engage educationally with their children. The interesting and colorful exhibits certainly bring out the kid in everyone.
A Place for Hands-On Learning and Fun
What can you expect to find at the WONDERtorium?
• The A-Mazing Airways exhibit is a visual problem-solving maze of transparent tubes where the user can manipulate the airflow, re-directing soft objects or determining ways to unblock an obstructed object.
• Kids of all ages can learn how to milk a “cow” at the Generation Station Farm, explore a Japanese mountain in the Kameoka Kids exhibit or apply physics with contraptions designed and built by Oklahoma State University engineering students.
• In the Forest Playground, kids of all ages can climb a tree and slide into the padded pond.
• Future entrepreneurs can learn how to make change with the cash register at the Fowler Grocery or learn customer service skills at the Discovery Diner.
The new WONDERtorium is a gift literally created for a community by the community. Corporate and individual volunteers have put in numerous hours. Donors have given their financial gifts. Now, two mothers’ determination to fill a need in their community is a gift to all and a lesson in perseverance.
Plan Your Visit
308 W Franklin, Stillwater
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-5:00pm,
Admission $6 all ages, children age one and younger are free, membership packages available
405-533-3333 or www.okwondertorium.org
Make it a Day Trip
Make your trip to WONDERtorium a day adventure. The museum’s location south of Boomer Lake and along Stillwater’s Kameoka Walking Trails provides the perfect set up for combining a picnic at the park with a trail-walking adventure to the museum.
Boomer Lake is located north of WONDERtorium off of Boomer Road. Stillwater’s beautiful Kameoka walking trails meander around Boomer Lake and the city. Picnic pavilions and other park facilities are available.
After your picnic, take the walking trail to the south. The wooded trail will take you to Franklin Street, (approximately one mile) and to the WONDERtorium (when you reach the Stillwater High School football stadium, you’re there). Of course, you’ll have to walk back after your museum visit, but it’s all about quality family time, right?
Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh corgi. Daughter Megan attends OSU in Stillwater.