When we first walked through the doors of EdVenture last week, co-facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I faced two of the largest feet we had ever seen. We looked at one another and uttered an incredulous, “Whoa!?” We had to investigate. Passing under the archway, we walked into an atrium, and there he was all 40 feet, 17.5 tons of him: Eddie, the worlds largest child (see the slideshow below).
If the museum’s signature exhibit could make us feel like kids again, we could only imagine the wonders it might work on a five year old. I was excited to find out what else this National Medal Award-winning museum had in store. If the world’s biggest boy says one thing about EdVenture, it’s that this is a place that puts kids first. “We were creating a museum that was for children. This is the world on their terms,” said Catherine Monetti, one of the museum’s original designers. Hands-on learning and creating “ah-ha” experiences are keys to this museum’s brand of education.
Eddie is a prime example of this, and he’s more than a giant statue: Eddie is an interactive exhibit. Kids learn how their bodies work while playing in Eddie, crawling through his brain, listening to his heartbeat, and sliding down his esophagus.
During Monetti’s conversation with Catherine Horne, the museum’s CEO, they spoke of Eddie and his unique appearance as the “anchor” of EdVenture. Early renditions of Eddie gave him orange hair, green skin, and bulbous eyes. “He looked liked a cartoon,” said Horne. She remembered kids who saw the early renderings and asked, “Why doesn’t he look like us?” So, the museum created a composite of South Carolina’s diverse population. “We wanted him to look like all kids,” recalled Monetti. And today Eddie does, complete with a dragonfly named Flutter perched on his index finger. Eddie exemplifies much of what EdVenture encourages within its community: a sense of inclusiveness, adventure, and curiosity — and most importantly, fun!
During our work at EdVenture, Daniel and I heard children scream with delight, singing and running while exploring Eddie and the rest of the museum’s many exhibits. As one might expect, Eddie’s name came up in many of last week’s interviews, but it is the vision of children, entering the museum and seeing Eddie for the first time, that has left the indelible emotional imprint on its creators, conjuring joy and accomplishment. For kids who really run this place, though, Eddie marks the beginning of a wonderful journey.
Kudos to EdVenture!
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awards The National Medal to five libraries and five museums for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions to their communities. This award is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries, and StoryCorps is proud to record the stories of these distinguished institutions. Click here for a full list of this year’s winners.