KCDC: Smith helps expand services, increase number of attendees

Painting as a passion: Junior art education major, Sarina Smith, enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Kansas Children's Discovery Center. Smith has worked in the "Painting Pavilion" to help inspire young minds to use paint as their primary source for creativity.

Inspiring kids can be hard as distractions surround them at all available angles. For junior art education major, Sarina Smith, it’s her job to get and maintain that attention from young children.

She does this by using paint as a tool in order to gain the attention of and connect with young minds who are looking to express their thoughts with art.

“We provide the primary colors, but then they get to explore and figure out what other colors they can make with that paint,” said Smith. “It’s an easy tool to use. You have a paintbrush and your imagination. That’s all you need.”

The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (KCDC) is a hands-on children’s museum in Topeka with a mission to enhance the lives of children through an interactive environment, according to the organization’s website.

The discovery center has done well, as the organization welcomed in a record-breaking 88,423 attendees in 2018.

Unfortunately, not every kid has the same level of access to these creative spaces and supplies. Smith helps to promote this creative field for everyone through the new KCDC Cares initiative. There have been several smaller projects that have branched out from the KCDC Cares initiative.

According to Smith, “Medical Warriors” is one of the smaller projects where KCDC welcomes hospitalized kids to their building after hours so they can enjoy the exhibits on display. The “Puzzle Pieces program” is on the second Sunday of each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is focused on kids who are on the autism spectrum. “Play Free” is the newest subdivision that branches off from KCDC Cares and it is centered around bringing in incarcerated mothers from the Shawnee County Prison System so they can interact with their children in a safe, fun and relaxing environment.

“The KCDC also reduces prices for those with an EBT Card,” said Smith. “We also have free nights that are sprinkled in here and there. We advise families to get a KCDC pass through the Shawnee County Library. We are trying to make our services more readily available to underserved segments of the larger public.”

Another major attributor to this large attendance success is “mobile museums,” which are miniature versions of creative exhibits. This idea is also partnered with “family STEAM nights” where the KCDC reaches out to local schools and allows teachers to run mobile exhibits for an afternoon. These events are normally held inside of a selected school’s gymnasium.

“I’m getting a good, knowledgeable experience of what it’s like to be a teacher,” said Smith. “I am networking with local art teachers, and I get to see the kinds of connections they have with their students.”

The social connections are a vital part of becoming a teacher along with lesson planning, which Smith is also developing while at the KCDC.

“I develop lesson plans for our art sector and then the director either approves my idea or stores it away for a rainy day,” said Smith. “They’ve got a few of my lesson plans at their disposal, if needed.”

The KCDC has offered Smith an environment to develop as an art education professional as well as assist with non-profit operations. 

“I am doing this service through the LinC program,” said Smith. “I highly recommend the program to any incoming student… take the opportunity to check it out.”

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