A quarry complete with a stone transporter and a crane. A “Whiz Bang” exhibit equipped with a 3-D printer, vertical wind tunnel and building materials. An infant-toddler area featuring a Betsy-Tacy-themed play porch, tactile elements and hand-sewn willow trees.
These are among the 10 planned exhibits at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota, which opens May 1. Museum board members, staff and consultants have been working on exhibits for years, creating an experience tailored for kids ages 0-9 but also accessible for older kids and even adults.
Museum leaders worked with local companies, families and committees on exhibits, many of which feature a southern Minnesota flavor.
“We're getting the story right because we are talking to the experts,” said Deb Johnson, the museum's education and exhibits director. “If we provide the opportunity, kids will learn the skills.”
The museum is working to complete most of the exhibits before the grand opening. It won't start building the water-play exhibit and the outdoor agriculture area until this summer, however.
Among the exhibit highlights:
■ The Mankato Clinic Tree of Forts Climber. The museum's tallest attraction goes through the roof — literally. Museum staff had to take out part of the roof to install the multi-story climber, which features six forts and multiple tunnels, nets and bridges.
Johnson, who helped design the exhibit, said it's about way-finding, risk taking and physical exercise. Staff plan on opening it for the museum's adult event Saturday.
■ The Coughlan Quarry. The quarry has arguably the museum's most physically impressive features, aside from the climber. Visitors walk through a Kasota stone archway to enter the exhibit, which has a 9-foot stone-cutting blade on the wall. Kids can use the stone transporter and crane to construct an arch. They can also play in a sand pit and crawl through a cave.
■ The Grow it Gallery. The museum is still working on its agriculture exhibits, notably the Dotson Back 40 and the Farm Yard. The gallery gives a taste of what the museum has in mind. The staff created a seed-to-table concept, where kids can pick fruits and vegetables from a garden bed and pretend to cook and sell them at the deli.
There also will be aquaponics, growing stations and a tractor donated by Denny Dotson.
Visit cmsouthernmn.org/exhibits/treeofforts to learn more about the exhibits.