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Learning and play mesh at Mobius Kids

Ciera Harns, 7, reads a sign above the ironing board inside the house in the exhibit Bayanihan: A Window to the Philippines, at the new Mobius Kids.  
 (Amanda Smith / The Spokesman-Review)
Ciera Harns, 7, reads a sign above the ironing board inside the house in the exhibit Bayanihan: A Window to the Philippines, at the new Mobius Kids. (Amanda Smith / The Spokesman-Review)

Kids who descended into River Park Square’s basement Saturday gasped in awe.

Before them was this giant, colorful playground – a world where rivers run in a water table, paper rockets whiz through the air and a rural Filipino town complete with a fish market comes to life.

Science, culture and art came together at Mobius Kids, a new discovery museum where children can play, explore and learn through hands-on exhibits.

The wow-effect was certainly evident Saturday as hundreds of kids dispersed into the 16,000-square-foot room – a space encompassing an art studio with a magnetic wall, a theater stage replete with lights and costumes, and a play area designed specifically for babies and toddlers.

“This is so cool,” said 10-year-old Pierce Fix, eyeing all the “toys” in the room, which included an erosion table with sand and running water, as well as a kid-size John Deere backhoe that dug rocks in a small construction zone.

Mobius Kids officially opened its doors Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the morning that drew dozens of families. Ten kids, each with a pair of scissors, stood before the red ribbon separating the galleries from the entrance, patiently waiting for the adults to finish saying a few words. “Can we play now?” one of them asked as soon as the ribbon fell to the ground in shreds.

“This is really fun,” said Sam Mitchell, age 8, as he waited for his turn to climb onto the backhoe, also known as “Super Digger.” “I’m having a good time.”

The museum consists of seven galleries. One of the most popular ones Saturday was Take Flight, a traveling science exhibit that teaches kids about gravity, thrust and other aspects of air travel. Most of the kids, however, didn’t realize it was a learning tool. For most of them, Take Flight was simply a chance to launch their handmade paper airplanes and rockets using equipment they had to pump and aim at a bull’s-eye.

Another gallery called Bayanihan pays tribute to the rural town of Palo in the Philippines. On Saturday, kids and parents alike sat inside the child-size house made of “sawali,” or bamboo strips, and played in the nearby “sari-sari” store that displayed packages of food and household items including traditional Filipino slippers and short, wide brooms. They also pretended to shop at the fish market, which featured handwoven baskets and tilapia made out of rubber that they weighed on the scales.

“My vision was to create an environment where art, culture and science are weaved together,” said Mary Brandt, director of exhibits and educational programming. She hopes the galleries will pique every child’s curiosity about the world.

Mobius Kids was made possible by donations of time, work and money from several businesses, including Washington Trust Bank, as well as hundreds of volunteers whose desire was to create learning opportunities for kids and families “that explore the global connections of science and society.”

Known simply as Mobius – a name inspired by a Mobius strip, a loop of material with a single twist – the nonprofit organization behind the museum is made up of an 18-member board that has raised almost 90 percent of the $800,000 needed to create Mobius Kids.

“It’s fun for kids,” said Gage Stromberg, executive director of Mobius. “Parents can feel good about it, too, because it’s educational.”

Mobius Kids is only the first phase of a larger project designed for children in Spokane, organizers said.

Their goal is to build a new science and technology center – intended for older kids – on the north bank of Riverfront Park by 2007. The center is expected to cost about $30 million to $35 million.

So far, organizers have secured $1.5 million from the state Legislature. They’ve also raised another $1 million from local donors.

“This is truly a community project,” said Linda Elkin, president of the board, listing off the names of area companies and individuals who became involved.

Mobius Kids fills the void left two years ago when the Children’s Museum on Post Street closed, said several parents who brought their kids to Saturday’s opening.

“I’m so happy to have this museum,” said Amanda Boose, who came with 6-year-old Eric and Rachel, who’s 4.

“We love having a creative, indoor space to play in Spokane. This is a place where kids can be imaginative.”


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