Kansas City has never had a major children’s musuem like a lot of big cities although there have been plenty of people over the year’s who have advocated for one and still do.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t places you can go NOW in our metro where kids can experience the wonder of discovery. We take you to a converted elementary school in Shawnee, Kansas where they’ve been filling kids with “wonder” since 1989. They call it Wonderscope.
In 1988, the Johnson County Commissioners established a task force to study programs and activities available for children and their families in the local community. The study concluded that there was a shortage of hands-on, interactive programs of interest to entire families. In response to that unmet community need, Wonderscope Children’s Museum was founded in 1989, offering exhibits and programs in a former elementary school in Shawnee, Kansas.
Also in 1989, Children’s Museum of Kansas City opened to its first group tours in the Carriage House of the Kansas State School for the Visually Handicapped. Marty Porter, the museum’s founder and executive director, had started conversations about a children’s museum in Kansas City, Kansas in 1984. In 1990, CMKC moved into the Indian Springs Shopping Center, offering exhibits, programming at the museum and through outreach, and the Recycled Materials Center.
In 2003, Beyond the Book incorporated to serve children and families with a unique hands-on approach to teaching children about the arts and sciences through literature. Beyond the Book was also committed to creating a leading-edge children’s museum experience in Kansas City.
In spring of 2006, the respective boards of Wonderscope and Beyond the Book agreed that it would be in the best interests of both organizations and the community to explore the potential for a collaborative approach to achieving the common vision for a large-scale children’s museum. In May 2007, Beyond the Book merged into Wonderscope, creating one combined entity, with a combined board, combined leadership and integrated programming. The merged organization began conversations with Children’s Museum of Kansas City. In May of 2008, Children’s Museum of Kansas City merged into Wonderscope Children’s Museum to become Wonderscope Children’s Museum of Kansas City, operating out of Wonderscope’s site in Shawnee. This merger effectively brought all of the children’s museum interests in the metropolitan area together to achieve the vision of developing a world-class children’s museum for Kansas City.