Now that school is out, the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia is throwing a weekend-long bash this weekend to celebrate its traveling exhibit “Children’s China: Celebrating Culture, Character, and Confucius,” which initially opened May 28.
The Olympia stop is the west coast debut of the exhibit, which was designed by The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum.
Ivy Xhang, 25, is the docent that travels with the exhibit. Born in Shandong Province in rural China, she’s been with the exhibit for more than a year. She makes sure everything is in order and also takes time to answer questions and teach people about China.
“It’s cool, and fun to interact with people, especially kids,” Xhang said. “They have so many interesting questions.”
The exhibit has several settings filled with information and interactive activates. A typical home, a modern classroom, a restaurant, a park, a panda reserve (sorry, only stuffed pandas), and a Great Achievement Hall that centers the exhibit. Some elements from the traveling exhibit are sprinkled throughout the other exhibits in the museum.
There are also dragon parades several times daily.
“In a nutshell, this is intended to show kids what it’s like to be a child in modern China,” said Amy Brockman, the museum’s senior development manager.
What’s really popular is the panda nursery, which teaches visitors about the importance of protecting the extremely endangered panda. Stuffed pandas are in a crib, and children can weigh them, feed them bottles, hold them, and even name them in the exhibit.
“The pandas are wildly popular as part of the exhibit,” Brockman said. On a typical day, children can be seen leaving with their very own stuffed panda from the gift shop.
Children’s China is one of the features of the new Summer Splash festival, which replaces the annual Sand In The City starting this year, with events lasting through August. Children’s China will be on display until Sept. 5.
The Summer Splash festival will offer free admission to the museum from 3-9 p.m. on Fridays, with August 27 and 28 being “Pay What You Can” days all sponsored by Heritage Bank. Reduced price admission in June, for Children’s China, is sponsored by The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound.