Knock and the door will be opened. This summer, Baton Rouge families will walk through the doors of early childhood education paradise. After years of planning and waiting, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum is almost ready to be enjoyed. The museum will be a place for all to learn through play and discover new possibilities.
Perched atop a grand hill in City-Brooks Park, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum stands tall as a beacon of creativity and progress. Whimsical and modern, the architecture separates the museum from any other structure in town. As intriguing and inviting as the outside appears, the treasures inside are what will keep families returning. With 28,000 square feet to explore and 18 learning zones to discover, the Knock Knock Children’s Museum has more to offer Baton Rouge families than ever before. In fact, Peter D. Olson, the Executive Director of Knock Knock Children’s Museum states, “I think families, once we open, will wonder how they lived without this.”
Knock Knock Children’s Museum has been a dream for many years here in Baton Rouge, and this summer, it will be our new reality. “The founding board has articulated a very clear vision for Knock Knock to be the number one early childhood educational and cultural resource in the capital region. It will be a place where everybody from all walks of life are excited to come together and support their children’s learning through play in this beautiful venue with these wonderful views. We are creating a new sense of place right here on Knock Knock Hill in City Brooks Park,” Olson describes.
What began as the Capital City Children’s Museum became Knock Knock through the ingenuity of LSU Communications students who worked with the board on developing a brand identity. The enterprising students tested names in several different focus groups, and Knock Knock Children’s Museum “came out head and shoulders above any other options. The name stuck and it works so well,” Olson explains. His favorite thing about the name is the many meanings it can support. Because one of the museum’s goals is to “knock down any barriers of learning through play” the name fits its purpose. Through reduced admission, subsidized field trips, handicap accessibility, and other possibilities, Knock Knock will be a “bridge for all children,” Olson proudly states.
The board has meticulously planned each aspect of Knock Knock, and everything has a purpose. Erin Reynaud, Director of Marketing, shares the extent to which each decision was poured over, “Everything ties back to educational development, even the carpet floor.” From the architecture to the exhibits, only the very best were invited to collaborate with Knock Knock’s board of directors. After a national Request for Proposal, the board selected Boston architecture firm Cambridge 7 Associates and local firm, Remson, Haley, and Herpin to design the building, and 1220 Exhibits out of Nashville to design and fabricate each exhibit. “As a former exhibits director, I was excited to come to Knock Knock in part because of all the attention to detail and vision that we are putting into our learning zones,” Olson shares. “One of the biggest reasons why these learning zones will be successful is because of the leadership of our Education Chair, Cate Heroman, who is a highly respected leader in Early Childhood Education. She has championed the development of these learning zones and our educational curriculum.” Knock Knock is at the forefront not only of architecture and technology but also of curriculum, participating in national webinars on makers activities and play as a way to rebound from trauma.
In addition to the learning zones, the location is what makes Knock Knock unique. Olson explains that while having to choose a favorite feature is like having to pick your favorite child, it’s the views over the large oak trees and lakes that mean the most to him. “Something really unique about this children’s museum is the views it affords. And that in terms of children’s early development, when they’re able to see the world from multiple perspectives, from up high, from down low, from far away, and from up close, it opens up their learning in such powerful ways that can really help change perception.”
One unique view that children will love is from the top of the Story Climber, a Luckey climber, which will stretch from the floor to the top of the museum. “Imagine a three year old climbing up one or two platforms, and then each time they come back, they’ll go a little further, and by the time they’re four, they’re halfway up, and then as a five year old will get all the way up to the top and can look over the live oak,” Olson describes. He beams with delight when discussing the world famous climber that will be here in Baton Rouge. “When you drive by, you’ll see children on these flying books. Doesn’t that tell anyone who visits here that Baton Rouge is investing in its children? That right there is a game changer.”
Knock Knock is going to be a destination for fun and learning, but the vision is to also be a place of refuge for families no matter what is going on at home. Olson has plans to be as accommodating as possible to families going through hard times like a military deployment or illness. “It’s important to know that the vision behind Knock Knock is to really be a bridge so that all children, regardless of background, can participate in Knock Knock. I find that when we truly invest in early childhood, the return on investment is exponential,” Olson declares. “What this means for our community long term is truly transformative. It creates a new sense of optimism and hope.”
The doors will open this summer, and everyone involved is anticipating that incredible day where children will enter for the first time. Olson is “most looking forward to the joy on children’s faces as they see their children’s museum for the very first time. That’s priceless. Then, after we’re up and running a while, children will start to understand how they can own this place and wear a certain confidence when they come in. This is where they have domain. It’s a place in their lives where they’re empowered.” ■