The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has debuted Wegmans Wonderplace, described as the first gallery on Washington, D.C.’s National Mall designed for the learning needs of children from infancy to age 6.
Made possible through a $1.5 million gift and in-kind donations from Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, the 1,700-square-foot gallery will enable kids to “cook” in a kitchen like Julia Child’s; plant and harvest pretend vegetables and operate a farmstand; and steer a tugboat inspired by a model in the museum’s collection, among other activities.
In all, Wegmans Wonderplace consists of six sections, each offering hands-on, play-based interdisciplinary activities, with more than 100 Smithsonian aftifacts displayed in various locations to ignite early learners’ interest in museums and American history.
Wegmans Wonderplace completes the museum’s 45,000-square-foot Innovation Wing, which offers 12 exhibitions, learning spaces and program places created to explore the themes of invention, creativity and business.
Wegmans is also funding the Smithsonian’s new demonstration kitchen in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Part of the museum’s Food History Project, the kitchen hosts various programs and demonstrations that unite attendees for discussions encompassing history and the present and future of American cuisines.
“Wegmans’ mission is to help our customers live healthier, better lives, and that begins with children,” noted Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman. “Having fun through play is the best way to inspire children to learn.”
Family-owned Wegmans operates 88 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.