Keeper of the Plans

Interactive space-themed center for kids coming to the Cosmosphere

The Cosmosphere is about to get a lot more kid-friendly.

The space museum in Hutchinson announced Thursday it had received a $500,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation to build “CosmoKids,” an interactive science-education center.

CosmoKids, expected to open in early 2020, will feature hands-on STEM-based activities geared for children 2-7 years old, according to Jim Remar, the museum’s CEO.

The museum does not currently have a dedicated children’s section.

“One of the things we hear often from families is, ‘Great museum, but you don’t have anything that relates to my younger children,’” Remar said. “This will allow us to accomplish that.”

In the new center, kids will be able to launch air rockets, create paper airplanes and place them in an air tube, use foam blocks to create a colony on Mars and more.

“It’s going to be a great way for families to interact together and also for kids to just ... enjoy and get introduced to STEM at an early age,” Remar said.

This is the second time in two years the Cosmosphere has been awarded a grant from the Overland Park-based Sunderland Foundation, which gifted $500,000 to the Cosmosphere in 2017.

In a news release, Kent Sunderland, president and trustee of the foundation, said his “family is very proud the Cosmosphere is in Kansas.”

“We want it to continue to thrive and enrich the lives of visitors from around the world,” he said in the release. “We are especially happy to support CosmoKids and to bring STEM experiences to even the youngest Cosmosphere visitors.”

The Hutchinson museum has been fundraising since 2014 for a Revitalization Campaign, which will gradually upgrade the entire facility.

Upgrades have already been made to its Dr. Goddard’s Laboratory, its Justice Planetarium and two new classrooms.

The campaign, when announced, aimed to raise $15 million for the museum — though that goal has since been revised to $7.4 million, Remar said.

The recent CosmoKids grant brings the total raised to $4.3 million.

The Cosmosphere is one of the world’s premier space museums, with more than 15,000 artifacts displayed over 105,000 square feet of museum space. It focuses on the space race, lunar landing and space shuttle programs — and regularly draws visitors from across the country.

Only the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., has a larger collection of U.S. space artifacts.

For more information on the museum, at 1100 N. Plum in Hutchinson, visit www.cosmo.org or call 800-397-0330.

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Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.
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