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Celebrating Three Decades of Wonder Workshop

In 1994, Cindy and Richard Pitts founded Wonder Workshop, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing interactive learning experiences to children, regardless of their socioeconomic status or background. With Cindy’s background in museum education, and Richard’s passions for history, storytelling, and drumming, Wonder Workshop quickly became a haven for children in the Manhattan community.

The core mission of Wonder Workshop is to promote education through hands-on activities that inspire learning, celebrate cultural diversity, and foster creativity. The heart of the organization is its Children’s Museum, located at 506 S 4th St, a vibrant space full of hands-on exhibits and activities for children and their families.

At its outset, the cornerstone of the organization’s offerings was its after school program. Designed for students in kindergarten to 5th grade, the after school program offers learning experiences designed to spark each child's curiosity and imagination. “We really tailor the experiences based on feedback from the kids,” says Cindy. 

Over the years, the organization has expanded its offerings to include a variety of programs including the Think BIG Summer Camp, Discovery Days, Pre-K STEAM, and Wonder Teens, along with scholarship opportunities to ensure financial accessibility for all. The Think BIG summer camp provides engaging learning experiences for students in K-5th grade. Campers participate in science experiments, arts and humanities activities, playtime, and special field trips. In the Pre-K STEAM program, kids enjoy activities focused on science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Each day features different themes, including agriculture, animal science, and chemistry. Wonder Workshop also provides scholarships for memberships and various programs, ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder any child’s opportunity to participate. 


One of Wonder Workshop’s standout programs is the Wonder Teens Museum Apprenticeship Program (MAP). This program is designed for youth in grades 6-12, who have often grown up going to Wonder Workshop from a young age. Participants work closely with staff members, develop curriculum ideas, and engage in creative projects. For example, the Wonder Teens in MAP were instrumental in creating the "Finding Frida Kahlo" exhibit, managing everything from the initial concept to building the exhibit. After completing 135 hours of volunteer service, participants become paid teen mentors, assisting facilitators and serving as role models for younger children. This program provides participants with valuable life skills and work experience.


Wonder Workshop co-founder Richard Pitts passed away in May 2020 after a long battle with cancer. Known for his vibrant personality and his lively drum circles, Richard led tours of the Underground Railroad, providing deep knowledge of Kansas’s abolitionist history. Richard was also featured in the documentary "Dawn of Day" about Wabaunsee County’s role in the fight against slavery. As the longtime public face of Wonder Workshop, Richard could hardly go anywhere in Manhattan without seeing current or former Wonder Workshop kids or families. 

Cindy Pitts, with the support of her energetic staff and board, continues to drive the organization's mission forward, focusing on incorporating community leaders and artists into the programs. Her efforts ensure that Wonder Workshop remains a dynamic and inclusive space for all children.

Many staff and board members, including Board President Lauren Farwell, have had the meaningful experience of seeing their own children participate in Wonder Workshop activities, just as they did when they were young. “I actually hosted my son Easton’s birthday party at Wonder Workshop. A lot of people don’t realize you can host birthday parties there,” Lauren shares. While her son’s party featured a reptile theme, the most popular birthday theme is kinetic slime.

On July 13, 2024, Wonder Workshop will celebrate its 30th anniversary at Blue Earth Plaza. This milestone event will feature a bounce house, food truck, snow cones, Story Hour, face painting, bubbles, a fire truck, and the ever-popular pickles on a stick. The event is free to the public, with participants encouraged to donate $30 for the 30th anniversary.

This celebration is a reflection of Wonder Workshop's impact over the past three decades. From summer camps filled with hiking, s'mores, and tadpole hunting to themed monthly activities and pre-K programs, Wonder Workshop has continually provided a space where kids can learn, explore, and have fun.

As Wonder Workshop looks to the future, the organization remains committed to its mission of providing educational and engaging experiences for all children. With Cindy Pitts at the helm, Wonder Workshop will continue to inspire and educate future generations.

Join us 10 am - 2 pm on July 13, 2024 at Blue Earth Plaza for Wonder Workshop’s 30th Anniversary Party! The event is free and open to the public. Participants are encouraged to donate $30.