May 25, 2019 – September 8, 2019
What began in a young boy’s imagination in 1911, evolved into a bedtime story, a long running book series, one of the most successful children’s television programs of all time, and an international traveling exhibition. Today Thomas & Friends reaches 110 million households across the United States and an even larger audience through internet streaming, DVDs, and toys.
Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails, an interactive, bi-lingual (English and Spanish) exhibition featured the favorite engines, characters, and destinations of this beloved children’s classic, was designed by HIT Entertainment, a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. Fisher Price. The 1500-square foot immersive exhibit combined hands-on learning with important concepts in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM), with an emphasis on developing 21st century skills. These ideas were woven and layered throughout the exhibit, creating an experience that spoke to a diversity of interests, age groups and learning styles.
Visitors found themselves on the Island of Sodor surrounded by iconic locations, including Knapford Station and the Sodor Steamworks. Large interactive models of Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends, combined with STEAM challenges, reminded children ages 2 through 7 and their caregivers, how “really useful” we all are.
With the series’ major characters being modes of transportation, the world of Thomas was a launch pad for STEAM exploration. STEAM-based learning is visible as children identify problems, ask questions, seek answers, and explore tools and materials. Selling tickets and fixing the train schedule, building train routes, fixing Percy’s wobbly wheels and loading him encouraged children to think about the technology and creativity behind steam engines.