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KiDiMu is turning KiDiTwo

Matthew and Andrew Koken experiment with gravity at the new KiDiMu Motion Madness exhibit. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Matthew and Andrew Koken experiment with gravity at the new KiDiMu Motion Madness exhibit.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

It’s no romper room, as kids are learning the physics of motion.

As classical music plays serenely in the background, Kids Discovery Museum visitor Kelly Koken concentrates on sending a golf ball down a steep, narrow track toward two waiting cylinders.

The object of the game, called “Hit the Bucket,” is to sink the ball into one of them.

It sounds simple, but she’s having no luck. She offers several explanations before throwing up her hands.

“I’m an engineer,” she said, “and I’ve spent a half hour on this.”

KiDiMu Executive Director Cheryl Dale says this type of analysis is par for the course at the museum’s current Motion Madness exhibit. She points out the “Galileo” display, which involves sending a ball from the top of a staircase down a long roller coaster-like track.

The ball has to scale multiple hills to get to its final destination. Success lies in starting off with just the right amount of force. Dale said that parents often coach their kids to push the ball harder, which usually doesn’t work.

“It takes the family a while to figure it out together,” Dale said. She thinks this family collaboration is a big part of what has made Motion Madness such a popular exhibit.

Mary Alice Cohen, KiDiMu’s director of operations, adds that unlike the museum’s Rainforest exhibit, which catered to the under-six set, the physics of Motion Madness appeals to a wide age range. Toddlers and preschoolers love the balls, but middle school students can actually apply the principles they’ve been learning in science class.

As KiDiMu turns two this week with a spate of celebration activities, Dale and Cohen are already programming into 2008. They envision a quarterly schedule of rotating exhibits that engage kids’ curiosity for science, math, reading and imaginary play.

In May comes an exhibit on learning math through literacy that will send visitors into giant books.

This summer, local theater fixture Steven Fogell, whom Dale and Cohen both call “a creative genius,” will mount an archeological excavation called “Dino Dig” and a ladybug’s-eye view of the natural world called “Gardentopia.” Fogell has also organized a schedule of creative summer camps.

Later in the year will come a series of traveling exhibitions including the aeronautics-themed “Take Flight” and “Sportsology,” which explores the science behind athletics.

Amidst their planning for fresh exhibits, Dale and Cohen are also proud of the museum’s growing role as a community meeting place. The Art Center, a favorite with little ones because of its ever-changing lineup of creative mess-making opportunities, now features a coffee pot.

Dale said this small addition has made a huge difference in the way that corner of the museum runs, as parents now sit and visit while their kids play.

The daily klatch, many of whose members used to gather at Woodward’s Parent & Child Center before the organization’s closure, even has a name: “minimu.”

“It’s an amazing social area for parents,” Dale said.

Cohen and Dale said the museum couldn’t operate without volunteers like the ones who staff its hands-on educational workshops, which cover everything from math to magnets to foreign languages and world cultures.

They barely have to solicit assistance because people in the community regularly send in resumes and ask how to get involved.

“They flock in,” Cohen said. “It’s a real magnet for people in the community.”

KiDiMu tries to give as much as it gets. It supplies 2,500 free passes to county libraries and organizations such as Head Start and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“Our mission is to have our doors open to all families in the community, regardless of their ability to pay,” Cohen said.

Dale said KiDiMu membership is stronger than ever, and its big-name fundraisers – Bill Nye in 2006 and the Kratt brothers this year – have been huge draws. But corporate sponsorships and city involvement are still vital not just to the museum’s ability to bring quality exhibits but also to its basic operating budget.

The city is currently funding the museum’s facility costs, a niche that Dale said is often hard to nab funds for because sponsors don’t want their support – or cessation thereof – associated with any sort of operations breakdown.

Assistance also comes from unexpected places. Just this week, Cohen called a local plumber to see about fixing a broken toilet. The plumber had no affiliation with the museum, but he offered to do the work free of charge.

Dale believes this public-private exchange gets at the heart of what it means to be part of Bainbridge. KiDiMu gives to the island, and the island gives back.

“It’s beyond us,” she said. “It represents who the community is.”

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Kids in motion

KiDiMu is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Here’s a rundown of anniversary week activities:

April 17 – 11 a.m.: Self-Portrait Painting with Krzysia. Little artists will create big art and learn about the painting process. Ages 3 and up. 2 p.m. – KinderMusik dance class with Linda Slater. All ages.

April 18 – 10 a.m.: Little Woodstock Music Together with Heather Scott.

April 19 – 10:30 a.m.: Story Time with Ms. Sarah. 11 a.m.: Live Cajun Music Jam Session with Whozyomama. Play Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music of South Louisiana; band members will sing in Cajun French.

April 20 – 11 a.m.: Magical Dress Up Dramatic Adventure with Ms. Janessa. Children who love to dress up will adore this creative class of imaginary play. Ages two and up.

April 21 – 11 a.m.: Shumba Youth Marimba Ensemble from Seattle perform African marimba music with finely crafted xylophones made from hardwoods.Shumba has performed at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Noon: Local children’s author Lynn Brunelle presents hands-on experiments from her book, “Pop Bottle Science.” 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.: Family clogging taught by Heels of Thunder and Country Cloggers. 1 p.m.: Home Depot of Poulsbo delivers their award-winning kids clinic where children can learn do-it-yourself skills, tool safety and construct projects from pre-fabricated kits.

April 22 – 1 p.m.: Preview this summer is pirate camp. A “pirate ship” has anchored nearby, and the captain is here to visit. Explore your imagination and become part of his pirate crew in search of a buried treasure.

For more information, see www.kidimu.org.

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