New Knock Knock Children’s Museum Exhibits Promote Literacy

Designed by Cambridge Seven Associates and Remson Haley Herpin Architects, the new Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, presents a diversity of exhibit galleries, called Learning Zones, that appeal to children ages 0-8 and their caregivers. The exhibits, designed by C7A, explore Baton Rouge’s rich heritage, geography, and culture to help children and families gain a sense of place. Organized by a framework of two parallel and interrelated worlds – “City” and “Nature” – the exhibits support the Museum’s mission to promote intellectual curiosity, self-expression, and early literacy development in the community.

The lively “Knock Knock Square” serves as the Museum’s primary program and group orientation space. Plays, dance and music performances, video screenings, media events, and Museum ceremonies all take place on a low stage platform whimsically themed as a giant open book to promote KKCM’s literacy focus in a playful, prominent way.

Continuing the literacy theme, the “Story Tree” is a gathering place for visitors to hear, read, write, and tell stories. The area can accommodate groups seated on floor cushions, on benches, and at several small tables, to listen to presenters stationed at the base of the tree. Shelving at the perimeter of the area contains books for readers of every age, many boxed with an accompanying puppet, stuffed animal, or prop.

At “Go Go Garage,” children change tires, look under the hood, check the oil, and pop the trunk, participating in the kind of dramatic play that stimulates collaboration and creative problem solving. In this immersive setting, the signs, posters, and manuals that populate a mechanic’s world also offer many opportunities for children to exercise their burgeoning literacy skills.

Performers of all ages find outlets for their creativity in “B.R. Star Studio,” home to a suite of full body experiences that involve visitors in music-making, acting, singing, and dancing.

At “Fish Tales,” realistically screen-printed fabric fish present a variety of species commonly found in waters in and around Baton Rouge. Magnets attached at one end let children hook the fish and release them easily. A nearby writing station provides tools for kids to identify their fish by name, measure and weigh it, and post their results on a Fishing Derby display board before returning their catch to the pond.

There are many roles to play at “I See Food Café” and “Pelican Pantry:” working at the fish counter and weighing out parcels of fish for customers; sitting down at the counter to order lunch from a kid-friendly menu; cooking and serving play food at the café counter; shopping at Pelican Pantry, the adjacent grocery store, for a colorful variety of produce, dairy, and packaged foods; and working as a checkout clerk who scans food and bags it for customers to take home.

Providing children and families with an inspiring place to express their creativity and imagination, the “Art Garden” is a flexible arts and crafts studio space featuring two multi-touch light tables, one for painting with sand and the other for pattern making with translucent acrylic pieces of varying shapes and sizes.

The “Knock Knock Maker Shop” is a rich learning zone where children are encouraged to invent, design, create, explore, solve problems, tinker, put things together, and take things apart. The emphasis is on creating rather than consuming. As children enter, they will have a choice of creating and inventing anything they choose, or they can select one of the provided design challenges.

Themed as a lush and sun-dappled bayou glade, “Crawbaby” welcomes KKCM’s youngest visitors and their caregivers into a safe and comfortable play space of their own, out of the flow of Museum traffic. Inspired by Louisiana’s iconic cypress swamps, the area perimeter is defined by scenically-treated trees and soft-sculpture cattails, perfect for playing peekaboo.

On the “city” side of the riverbank, the “By-You Building Company’s” workshop offers a rich mix of hands-on building activities that inspire role playing and problem solving. In the workshop’s central area, kids build with wooden blocks of varying sizes at a large table that accommodates multiple users. At a light table stocked with architectural drafting tools such as T-squares and curves, they trace shapes and try their hands at design. Nearby, they can form teams and participate in a bridge-building challenge involving Duplo bricks, or they can look for inspiration in one of the children’s books about building and architecture that they find in this area’s cozy reading nook.

Additional Learning Zones include “Bubble Playground,” where children experiment and immerse themselves in sudsy science as they create, observe, and manipulate bubbles of spectacular and surprising shapes and sizes; the “Paws and Claws Clinic,” where children don lab coats and stethoscopes to play the role of veterinarian in a clinic setting that is made warm and personal with displays of photos of Baton Rouge families and their pets; and the “Ship Shape Health Challenge,” which provides full-body physical activities that promote fitness and provide many opportunities for individual and cooperative play, ranging from a climbing wall, pulley lifts, and jumping and hanging activities.

The “Storybook Climber” brings the KKCM indoor exhibit experience to a literal and figurative high point with its iconic, soaring multilevel climbing structure. Just as “Knock Knock Square” introduced the Museum’s literacy theme near the entry, the multilevel “Storybook Climber” – themed as a joyful outpouring of giant books that have swirled off the barge traveling up the river to deliver them to the children of Baton Rouge – “bookends” the literacy motif.