Norwalk’s Stepping Stones Museum reopens nearly two years after the pandemic closed


NORWALK – Originally closed in March 2020 due to COVID restrictions, the Stepping Stones Museum for Children has kept its doors closed a little longer to continue a massive renovation project in one fell swoop.

The children’s museum will reopen to the public on Saturday at 8 a.m. and unveil four new exhibits, renovations to longtime favorites, and new STEAM-infused educational programming. The museum also added a gift shop and expanded its Healthyville Cafe with an emphasis on locally sourced foods.

“All of us at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children can’t wait for our community to embark on this incredible journey into the future with us,” said Rhonda Kiest, President and CEO of Stepping Stones in a press release. “We are delighted to fully reopen our doors and launch this new iteration of our wonderful children’s museum.

Stepping Stones will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum remains at $ 16 for non-member adults and children over one year of age and $ 12 for seniors. All museum members and children under 12 months of age will be admitted free.

The museum offered virtual experiences throughout the pandemic and opened its outdoor spaces last summer as part of the governor’s “CT Summer at the Museums” program. Carolyn Knott, the museum’s vice president of integrated branding, expects people to be “absolutely amazed” when they walk through doors for the first time in nearly two years.

“They’re definitely going to be greeted with open arms and probably with tears in their eyes because we absolutely missed the audience,” Knott said. “We got to glimpse and hear some laughs outside in the Celebration Yard over the summer, but that just doesn’t compare to feeling that energy going through the door when we’re open.”

When visitors walk through the door they will see old favorites like the ColorCoaster, Tot Town, and the Energy Lab, but turning the corner will step into an immersive light experience, and beyond that see the dinosaur. from the state of Connecticut, the Dilophosaurus.

The new “Lights On! The exhibition showcases the latest gadgets and lighting innovations. According to Knott, children can learn about “reflection, refraction, light bending, manipulation, kaleidoscope light and shadow play” as well as hologram technology.

The “Big Adventures: Dinosaurs” exhibit gives children the opportunity to become junior paleontologists and discover dinosaur bones and other fossils at an excavation site. They can also travel back in time 50 million years ago through the “wacky and whimsical time machine” to see a “living” Dilophosaurus and other dinosaurs and plants that existed in the Connecticut area of ​​the United States. early Jurassic period, according to Robert Townes, the museum’s director of public affairs.

“This is an opportunity for a child to learn Connecticut history through play and find out more about where they’re from,” Townes said. “This is one of the really exciting things, we are starting to introduce more things about our region in these exhibits.”

Knott added, “It’s very immersive. They touch each other. They explore. They learn.

The Healthyville Cafe will soon allow families to order their food in advance using a QR code, so they don’t have to queue. The museum is also using a grant from the Campbell Soup Company to renovate almost everything in its cafe and stock it with locally sourced foods, starting with produce and dairy products from Silverman’s Farm and Shaggy Coos Farm in Easton. .

“We really have the opportunity to introduce kids to the farm-to-table concept,” said Townes, explaining that it goes beyond how food is processed and gets to a person’s table. , but also how it affects real world issues such as national and global supply chains.

“So you have the opportunity to teach these things to children when they are young and these lessons are taking root now, and these will be habits that they will take later in life,” he said.

When it reopens, the museum will also launch its Worldwide Light Celebration, illuminating almost every square inch of the building, inside and out. The museum will celebrate the traditions of light and their role in winter celebrations and holidays around the world, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years Day.

Stepping Stones is not yet finished adding to its collection. The museum has launched a five-year fundraising campaign leading up to its 20th anniversary in 2020. A donation of $ 1 million from the Bauer Family Foundation kicked off the campaign and the museum continues to progress towards a goal of $ 6 million. dollars, according to Townes.

In 2023 and 2024, Stepping Stones plans to build and unveil a new Energy Lab exhibit, a “We (Heart) American” exhibit and a new exhibit for toddlers. The “lights on!” And “Big Adventures: Dinosaurs” exhibits are traveling showcases and will make room for new exhibits in the future.

For more information on the museum reopening, visit the website at steppingstonesmuseum.org or call the museum at 203-899-0606 ext. 264.

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About Bobby F. Lopez

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