Shawnee & Lenexa

Wonderscope fun honors Martin Luther King Jr.

Pitts entertained the crowd with his stories and music.
Pitts entertained the crowd with his stories and music. Special to the Star

Creativity is usually the buzzword at Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City, and their celebration on Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day fit right in with that.

At the entryway to the museum, a display showcased two cracked eggs. One egg had a brown shell, while the other had a white shell. Their insides were there too, on a paper plate, showing the children that both types of eggs were the same in the middle.

“We’re trying to give a visual, because it’s kind of a hard concept to reach,” said Valerie Hampton, marketing and special events manager for the museum, which is in Shawnee. “The idea (of the museum) is about parents teaching their kids with the resources we have here.”

Overall, approximately 400 children visited the museum for its special holiday activities.

As kids headed inside, there were many opportunities for related crafts. One featured paper cutouts of footprints where the kids were supposed to write their dreams for the future, in honor of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

One read, “I want the world to be fair.” Another said, “I want my big brother to be nice to me.”

Because most of the kids who visit Wonderscope are fairly young, the exhibits and activities are geared to showcase simple concepts in a meaningful way, without being overly complicated, said John Lowe, executive director of the museum.

Melissa Aleman of St. Joseph was there with her 4-year-old daughter, Alyana, and her 6-year-old son, Xavier. They took home a few paper footprints so they could come up with their dreams for the future with the rest of their family.

Xavier said his way to start changing the world would be to “start saying nicer words.”

There were also craft stations where children could make bracelets with wooden beads and color pictures related to King. At another table, they could make wreaths from brown, tan and peach paper cutouts of hands.

Richard Pitt gathered an appreciative audience on youngsters for two different performances. The first was storytelling — a mix of traditional stories from Pitt’s own family and others, all with strong moral themes of mutual respect and responsibility.

Later, he showed an eager bunch of kids ranging from toddlers to 7-year-olds the basics of playing a djembe, an African drum.

Ashley Vardijan’s two daughters, 5-year-old Kensley and 3-year-old Kaelyn, joined in the fun. The girls, along with many other kids, got the opportunity to play the drums and to share their own rhythms with the group.

Pitt encouraged the kids, one at a time, to play their own tune on the drum, then he and the rest of the group would listen and play it.

Vardijan, who lives in Olathe, said her daughters love Wonderscope and make sure to play in each room, checking out both the permanent exhibits and any special crafts whenever they visit.

On Monday, their favorite activity was the paper-hand wreaths.

“It’s a different experience, and they learn something new,” Vardijan said.