Children’s museum for BR’s City Park on track, officials say

Construction of the long-awaited Knock Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge’s City Park is on track to begin this summer, organizers say.

An outside consultant is scheduled to come to Baton Rouge this week to go over final details of the museum’s learning zones, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission is scheduled to begin the bid process for construction of the museum in the coming months, according to Knock Knock Museum board member Staci Deumite Duhé.

The volunteer nonprofit board has raised more than $6 million for the 30,000-square-foot facility, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

“We’re very excited about how it is moving forward,” Duhé said.

In 2010, BREC and the Knock Knock Children’s Museum board entered into a cooperative agreement to build the museum on Dalrymple Drive near Interstate 10 in City Park.

“I’m so thankful that we’re in this process with BREC,” Duhé said.

For Knock Knock, the partnership has meant additional expertise in construction and planning.

BREC leaders say the museum will be a boon to the community and draw people to the park.

“Some of the details that they are putting into the educational part — it’s just going to be a real huge deal for Baton Rouge,” BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said. “This is going to be an incredible tourist facility for the community.”

At the heart of the museum will be 18 to 20 exhibits, dubbed learning zones, that are tied to southeast Louisiana.

“They are truly learning zones,” McKnight said. “It’s really a creative way to play but you’re learning while you play, and you are exercising in some of the zones while you play.”

She said considerable focus has been placed on encouraging interest in science, technology and mathematics.

Duhé said area educators and groups took part in brainstorming for exhibit ideas.

“Louisiana as a state, and our capital region in particular, is so rich, but many times we overlook the jewels that are in our own backyard,” Duhé said. “Once we started, you almost couldn’t stop the ideas from growing.”

Among her favorite ideas is a tribute to Louisiana’s oak trees, which will serve as the welcoming center. Duhé said her daughter, then an avid tree-climber, participated in the brainstorming sessions.

“It was such a personal connection for her,” she said.

The tree will include several interactive components, including the ability to step inside and peer through a periscope.

“It just plays upon the importance of childhood and fun and imagination, and it does it in such an innovative way,” Duhé said.

Fundraising for Knock Knock began more than a decade ago. The museum, including its exhibits, is expected to cost more than $9 million.

“Everybody on the board feels so rewarded to get to this point,” Duhé said. “The majority of us have been here since the beginning.”

Duhé said many of the original board members’ children have outgrown the museum’s targeted demographic while their parents have plotted its development.

“It hasn’t diminished the desire, the tenacity, the vision of what this will mean for the community,” she said.

McKnight said officials have been careful to consider the museum’s effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

“We’ve taken great care to make sure that we are taking all of their comments,” she said. “We’re not impacting the neighborhood in any negative way at all.”