JOPLIN, Mo. – Downtown Joplin will receive a science center in 2025.
The Creative Learning Alliance had its eyes on the former Joplin Public Library property for some time, and has now purchased the building at 300 S. Main.
CLA Executive Director Neely Myers told The Heartlander the building sat vacant for many years and has great historical significance to the region. The former library also housed Myers’ grandfather’s hotel, the once-vibrant Connor Hotel.
CLA plans to install a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) learning system in the science center by using creativity and play. Myers says exhibits aren’t finalized yet, but future visitors can expect exhibits featuring water works, vacuum tubes, physics-based play and much more. Everything inside the center will be hands-on and fun for families of all ages and disabilities.
Myers says the science center will put a priority on accessibility, and most exhibits will fit every disability.
“Our goal from the beginning has been access for all,” Myers said. “STEAM is for all families and all children. Everyone deserves to be able to play, learn and dream about what they want to be when they grow up. Many of the exhibits will be good to play with, whether you are able with your legs or in a wheelchair.
“We want to meet kids where they are. Kids best learn by playing, and so we want kids to play and learn. We realize that’s going to carry a lot of responsibility in terms of making things accessible. We’ll do whatever we can to make that possible.”
The next-closest science centers to the Joplin vicinity are over an hour away. Myers believes Joplin’s new science center will provide an opportunity for families who can’t afford to drive to another city to visit an educational facility.
Myers says CLA has several generous donors who are helping make things possible, including longtime partners Liberty Utilities, General Mills and Freeman Health System. Anyone who would like to donate to the cause can visit the CLA website.
Once the center is open, it will only employ five to six paid staff members, and will be primarily run by generous volunteers.
“We’re really excited to bring programming that is so critical to the formative education of our youth to the area in a way that doesn’t currently exist. That will mean so much to our future workforce (and) economic development for the community. It’s a holistic thing that is happening.”