Longview World of Wonders: Local museum offers hand-on exhibits for kids

Kristin Koonce, playing Professor WOW, smiles to the small crowd of kids as they learn about heat absorption during THe Professor W.O.W science program on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at the Longview World of Wonder building in downtown Longview. (Courtney Case/News-Journal Photo)

Celebrating its first birthday at its current location in August, Longview World of Wonders is starting to become a household name in the area, according to coordinators.

“Blessed with an abundance of support by the community of Longview,” the organization says, it offers fun programs and exhibits for local children.

“It is solely because of the graciousness and selflessness of our donors and sponsors that we have been able to watch Longview World of Wonders grow in ways we never thought possible,” said Activities Coordinator Kristin Koonce.

The idea for LongviewWOW was born in 2009 when community members began to explore creating a hands-on children’s museum. In October 2009, Longview World of Wonders became the official name and the “museum without walls” was launched. In early 2013, the former Texas Furniture building in downtown Longview was purchased to house LongviewWOW. It opened in August 2016 at the location.

“Longview World of Wonders is the epitome of every childhood dream. The interests and passions we had as kids reflect our calling as adults. Having the opportunity to imagine, create and explore in a hands-on educational environment opens the door to the endless possibilities that lay ahead of each child. Our facilities challenge children to think outside of the box and find new and exciting ways to solve problems and develop ideas,” Koonce said.

The museum has a variety of hands-on exhibits for children. The most popular exhibits are “The Market,” “The House” and “Build It,” she said.

“The Market” allows children to explore how food is grown and the process it goes through to get from the farm, to the store, and then to your kitchen table. Children are able to experience life on the farm as they tend to animals in the stable, gather eggs from a lifelike chicken coop and plant vegetables in upraised gardens.

“The House” just opened a few months ago and was an “immediate hit,” according to Koonce.

She said it encourages role play and gives children the opportunity to see the kitchen and home from a different perspective. This gives them a chance to use their understanding of the proper way to set a table, prepare a meal and organize the kitchen items. Children can also slide out the kitchen window.

“Build It” is a Legos exhibit that gives children a place to challenge each other to develop ideas and build structures with their hands.

In addition to its permanent exhibits, LongviewWOW offers a variety of traveling exhibits and special events throughout the year.

A nonprofit organization, LongviewWOW draws support, in part, from donations and fundraisers. Its annual Bourbon and Bowties fundraiser is slated for Feb. 3. Funds from that will support the museum’s operating budget as it continues to work toward offering more exhibits for children.

Up next, LongviewWOW is working to build an exhibit called Energy City, an idea drawn from the fact that East Texas is known for its natural energy resources, Koonce said.

“Energy City will highlight our coal, natural gas, oil and other energy industries. This exhibit is included in our Phase II development plan,” she said.

Koonce said she believes the hands-on museum can be a life-changing place for children with countless opportunities to expand their knowledge and use their imaginations.

“Longview World of Wonders is proof that there is never a better time than now to allow your child the chance to discover all the world has to offer. It is proof education doesn’t end in the classroom and stretches far beyond their childhood years,” she added.

For more information, visit www.longviewwow.org.