Growing at the Thinkery

On a recent visit to the Thinkery—the new Austin Children’s Museum—four-year-old Elyse Kleinpeter used a hair dryer to discern the fat content in several types of food, from apples to potato chips. The unusual experiment was illuminating for wee Elyse, who excitedly declared, “I didn’t think potato chips would have fat!” 

It’s just this kind of revelation about food that’s the goal of the museum’s Let’s Grow gallery. When the thirty-year-old Austin institution opened its brand-new, beet-red location in East Austin in December, food lovers, locavores and wellness advocates rejoiced: The gallery—devoted to learning about healthy living and nutrition—occupies more than a quarter of the facility. 

Comprising four interactive exhibits to entice budding foodies, Let’s Grow includes Fresh! Farmer's Market, a delightful replica of a farmers market where children can learn about meal choice and food sources; Move! Studio, an area to bounce and dance and get the heart pumping; Bloom, an adorable garden-like play space for infants and toddlers and Kitchen Lab, where kids can learn about all aspects of food prep and healthful eating in a part-kitchen, part-science lab setting equipped with real appliances.

An emphasis on wellness was a very conscious decision in the development of Let’s Grow. “Healthy living is a critical element to everyone’s lives, and not all families have access to information about making healthy decisions,” says Cybil Guess, the director of experience. “The Thinkery wants to contribute to the wellness of our community, both intellectually and physically, and healthy living is a very timely and important topic.”

Kitchen Lab, in particular, teaches wellness and nutrition through fun and engaging hands-on, collaborative programs like the one Elyse enjoyed. “[It’s] a wonderful programming space,” says Adam Nye, associate director of education. “We plan to bring in guest chefs to do demonstrations and cooking lessons, as well as some food-related nonprofits that focus on nutrition and locally sourced food.” 

The Let’s Grow gallery will continue to germinate and expand, and might one day include a full-fledged garden. “We are also really interested in composting and asking our staff to contribute to a compost [pile], then using that as an educational tool for visitors,” says Nye. “We love for visitors to explore our facility, give us feedback and help us to move in new directions.” —Cari Marshall

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