Loretta Yajima

Loretta Yajima

Chris Fleck photo cfleck@midweek.com

Throughout the past quarter century, the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center has cemented its importance in our community and state. The center has expanded from a 5,000-square-foot donated facility in Dole Cannery to its present 38,000-plus-square-foot, brightly and creatively painted location at Kakaako Park. Still, Loretta Yajima, president of the board of directors, knows the center has just scratched the surface of its growing potential, but takes time to be appreciative of the value it has for both children and families.

“When we first opened we were in our storefront facility because we needed to demonstrate the need in the community, and at the time most people in Hawaii didn’t know what a children’s museum was,” says Yajima, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Jan. 7, 2009.

“It was an instant success. We had long lines of children outside our doors and a waiting list. When Gov. Waihee said we were going to be a part of the 30-acre development at Kakaako, I said I couldn’t ask for a better location.”

Children as young as toddlers along with their parents and families have a place to learn and build memories in a positive environment.

“It’s important for adults and parents to get involved in children’s learning, and that’s exactly what we believe in. Here, there is family learning, so the children have the best possible opportunity to learn things about themselves and the world around them,” adds Yajima.

There are now five learning exhibits at the center, including Tot Spot, Fantastic You, Your Town, Hawaiian Rainbows and Your Rainbow World exhibits. Each of the exhibits uses interactive features to engage children, incorporating all our human senses as part of the learning process.

“We have some really important key concepts. We have a gallery about your body, cultural galleries. Hawaiian Rainbow exhibit is where children can learn about their Hawaii ancestors. Those are really important things for our children to learn, to appreciate the generations who came before them and sacrificed to make life better for them,” says Yajima, who also is on the board of directors of the Association of Children’s Museums.

Adding to its learning depth and projected to open this summer is the center’s Rain Forest Adventure exhibit, which focuses on teaching children the components of a natural ecosystem, and the importance of conserving and preserving our natural world.

“The rainforest exhibit is really exciting for us,” Yajima says. “We want to nurture a generation of stewards of the environment. We want to start at a very early age teaching the importance of the rain forest, how to protect and to preserve. We want children to understand the life cycle and how it is all interdependent for the survival of the rain forests.”

For more information about Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center, visit discoverycenterhawaii.org or call 524-5437.