UPDATE: tickets are still available for the Grand Opening! Visit www.hocm.org for more info!

Denise Baggett

The new Hands On Children’s Museum (or HOCM) is opening to the public at 10 AM, November 11, 2012. The old Museum closed on September 4. The HOCM offers an oasis for young children and their families, especially during the long rainy season. It’s important to young children because it provides facilities for unstructured play, which is important for children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The HOCM is expecting over 200,000 visitors annually. And, it’s fun.

Starting in 1998, the Museum was feeling growing pains. The new HOCM, on three-quarters of an acre on Olympia’s East Bay waterfront, at 414 Jefferson Street SE, more than doubles the previous exhibit space and adds nearly 30,000 square feet in the Outdoor Learning Center.

The new HOCM is light-filled. It’s expansive and elevating, but still cozy. In the lobby, a giant cedar tree ‘grows’ out of the floor. It’s the foundation of the Tides to Trees exhibit, a two-story climber tree house and multilevel slide designed for “safe danger” that cuts through the ceiling into the Museum’s second floor.

Engaging Experiences

Six galleries offer hundreds of hands-on exhibits. There’s boat building, water activities, and art-making and inventors’ studios. Old-favorite exhibits have been expanded. Replicas are realistic. The Portico Group partnered with the HOCM to render the exhibits. Adding beauty and interest are educational muralist Heather Taylor’s paintings of wildlife and habitats of the PNW in accurate detail. For wee ones, there’s a special gallery with a clam shell waterbed for nursing mothers.

Because Healthy Children Need Plenty of Outdoor Play

An innovative Outdoor Discovery Center and Children’s Garden opens in spring 2013. It features a huge tricycle motocross racetrack and “car wash.” There’s a construction gravel pit, climbing towers, a driftwood fort, an interactive artesian stream, and a real campfire pit.

What Else Is New?

A café with indoor-outdoor seating is open to the public without Museum admission. Gorgeous, rooms are available for public rental. There are lockers for visitor use. Four national touring exhibits will visit annually. There’s more for older children. And there’s dedicated parking behind the building.

Now What? 

Museum staff will focus on their mission to stimulate curiosity, creativity, and learning through fun, interactive exhibits and participatory programs for young children and their families. They will be designing new ways to meet the needs of children and innovating with social service agencies, public schools, libraries, and others to bring interactive education to the community.

 A Model of Sustainable Development 

The $18M project funded by individual contributions; corporate, foundation, and public grants; business sponsorships, Public Facilities District (PFD) funds; and City of Olympia Tourism funds achieved Certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Facility status. A co-generation project will use LOTT’s waste methane for heating/cooling.

Children aren’t the only beneficiaries, the HOCM is revitalizing Olympia’s East Bay waterfront, creating vibrant public spaces, encouraging tourism expected to generate millions in spending, and hiring more staff.

CONTACT: http://www.hocm.org/ (360)756-0818

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