A three-dimensional jungle gym/work of art, Longo’s Cove invites children of all ages to scurry upward from pad to pad. It’s a great way to challenge kids’ coordination, says Great Explorations CEO Angeline Howell.
During a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 7, St. Petersburg resident Asher Thompson, 6, eyed the 26-foot tall climber with anticipation. He could barely wait.
“I wanted to try it, but I didn’t want to step on the jellyfish,” he said.
Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and his wife, Jaime, donated the funds for the climber; it was their idea, Howell notes, to include paintings of Florida sea life throughout the installation. The Longorias are parents of small children and were deeply involved in planning the Cove.
At the top, Cove Conquerors enjoy a birds-eye view of the entire museum, including an adjacent tree house being reimagined as a boat house to further the sea exploration theme. Small learners will soon have access to binoculars for bird watching and can identify different sea birds depicted throughout the museum. Activities such as a book nook, seabird seek-and-find and mangrove tables are in the works.
“We like to empower our visitors to explore our exhibits in a fun, hands-on way, and experiencing the museum from the top of the climber is certainly a way to do that,” Howell says.
A nationally accredited children’s museum, Great Explorations
also offers a preschool for young children and partners with school systems to bridge the gap between classroom instruction and unstructured education. In 2017, the museum donated 750,000 of in-kind service back to the community through educational programming.
They recently introduced a $2 million capital campaign with a goal of funding a project labeled the ‘Great Expansion.’ Ultimately, the expansion will result in further educational programming and more space for children to grow and learn.
Asher managed to sidestep the paintings of jellyfish. He reached the climber’s summit and surveyed the view; he could see everything from this new vantage point. His overall rating of Longo’s Cove was definitive:
“It was awesome!”