Crayola IDEAworks Debuts at the Franklin Institute
Step into the Colorverse, get creative, and grow your problem-solving skills in this new interactive exhibit.
A highly interactive, immersive, and colorful exhibit has arrived, challenging visitors to get creative and strengthen their problem-solving skills. “Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition” is two years in the making, and makes its world debut at the Franklin Institute. With over 150 physical and digital inquiry-based experiences and challenges, this 17,000 square foot exhibit has so much to do, see, and learn.
Walk into the brightly colored Crayola world, grab a wristband, and scan it to set up your profile. Using RFID technology (like Magic Bands in Disney World), this will track your activities as you scan it at each section of the exhibit and answer questions to learn more about your own problem-solving style. When you finally exit the exhibit after two gigantic rooms and seven scanning stations, you’ll scan the wristband one last time to summarize your journey, learn about how you work, and get a little personalized sticker to take home. More on that later.
The IDEA Workshop
The first half of the exhibit features a wide range of activities—from building to drawing to pitching a product and much more—to allow guests to learn and practice their “design thinking” skills. This room is organized by the IDEA acronym (I – Identify, D – Define, E – Explore, A – Assess), which outlines the problem-solving process.
At each “letter” section, you can scan your wristband to answer some prompts about your own style: Do you ask a question right away or wait to see if someone else asks first? Would you rather draw something from real life or from your imagination? Do you prefer to work alone or in groups?
Then, there are hands-on activities pertaining to each step. In “Identify” you learn to observe, use empathy, and spot problems with touchscreen challenges. In “Define” you focus on details and learn to prioritize. In “Explore,” you can build with pool noodles and draw crazy inventions. And finally, in “Assess” you can test solutions, including a fun product pitch (to a cartoon shark, obviously) where other visitors can decide whether to support your Monkey Washer, Sandwich Smasher, or whatever bonkers product you’re given.
Note: the screens time out rather quickly while kids are trying to make choices, so be ready to be quick or be very frustrated as you have to start over.
This advice actually extends to all the scan stations, so let’s be real here. While the IDEA prompts are essential to the overall ambition of the exhibit (and to get your sticker at the end), the screens do time out more quickly than you’d expect, and kids who are on the younger side, just learning to read, or just plain excited to run off and build with those pool noodles may find them frustrating or wish to skip them entirely. While the creators of the exhibit clearly had a vision as to the path guests should take in the Workshop, kids who have no interest in the more direct self-examination will still learn about themselves and problem-solving skills through play; so unless you are a completist who is really into stickers, you have our permission to just let the experience wash over little ones.
Welcome to the Colorverse
Next, leave the IDEA Workshop and travel up the ramp to the second room to test your problem-solving skills in the Colorverse. There, you travel under the sea, to the city of Crayopolis, and to Mars to put IDEA skills into action and find solutions to complex problems based on current scientific research and discovery.
Kids will learn about restoring the coral reef (and soundscapes), complex city planning, food production, fashion design, and even how one would play sports on Mars! We especially enjoyed broadcasting from the MNN (Mars News Network, naturally) greenscreen studio in what appeared to be some kind of Space Olympics situation, and adjusting factors like launch angle, force, and mass to throw a ball on a planet with lower gravity. And that’s just one of the many creative and thoughtful activities that fill the Colorverse. There are three additional scanning stations in this room for your wristband.
Finally, before you leave, scan your wristband in the grand finale to learn about your unique problem-solving approach, get some advice on how to use your skills to the fullest, and of course visit the colorful gift shop stocked with all kinds of Crayola products and STEAM activities, books, games, and more.
Know Before You Go
“Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition” runs from February 13 — July 18 at the Franklin Institute, at 222 North 20th Street in Philadelphia. The exhibit is open from 10 am — 5 pm Wednesday—Friday and 10 am—6 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $35 for adults and $31 for kids ages 3-11. Members pay just $12. Due to capacity restrictions, advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended—the exhibit sold out its opening weekend and is looking to be pretty popular. Masks are required at all times while in the Franklin Institute, and temperature will be checked upon entering.
Speaking of pandemic-related restrictions, while we had a great time at the exhibit and are sure you will too, be aware that this exhibit is very hands-on and interactive. Touchscreens, drawing tables, manipulatives, and even a foam building station mean a lot of high-touch areas and chances for guest interaction in some tight corners. The exhibit itself has a large footprint of 17,000 square feet, but it is divided into little activity stations which can become narrow gathering areas at high-traffic times despite social distancing reminders.
The Franklin Institute stipulates that by visiting, one “voluntarily assumes all risks related to potential exposure to COVID-19.”
The museum is enforcing masks and limited capacity through advanced ticket sales, but just be aware of these limitations, and know that the exhibit runs through July 18 if you would feel more comfortable waiting until demand dies down and vaccination rates rise. And visit the hand sanitizer dispensers liberally—or better yet, bring your own. To learn more about the Franklin Institute’s (and all the other local museums’) reopening procedures and guidelines, be sure to check out our reopening guide.
Photographs by Laura Swartz.