Wonder Workshop director wins award

By The Mercury

Richard Pitts, director of the Wonder Workshop Children’s museum, received two awards for his work including one from the White House.

Pitts co-founded the Wonder Workshop with his wife, Cindy Pitts. In 1995, he became the director of the Wonder Workshop Children’s Museum.

His award from the White House award is called “The President’s Call to Service Award,” presented by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Pitts was recognized for his lifework at the Wonder Workshop including his contribution of 4,000 hours or more of service since 1995 at the Wonder Workshop.

Dave Kozar, a graduate of Manhattan High and Kansas State University who also worked at the Wonder Workshop before moving to Australia, nominated Pitts for this national award.

Kozar wrote, “In appreciation of everything that you have done for the young people of Manhattan, KS and the surrounding area throughout your life, I have nominated you last year for the President of the United States of America’s ‘Call to Service Award…Mr. Pitts, it has truly been an honor to get to know you and be part of the amazing work that you do.”

Pitts received a letter from President Barack Obama, a certificate and a lapel pin.

Pitts also received the “Kansas Peace Award, 2013,” sponsored by the Dow Center for Multicultural and Community Services at K-State Libraries.

The purpose of the award is in two parts:

• To raise awareness of the need for understanding, innovation, open-mindedness and ongoing work to promote an inclusive, peaceful and vibrant culture in our communities and the larger society.

• To recognize and publicize the stories of K-State and community members who have contributed, through creative and constructive means, to bring together diverse sociocultural groups, promote intercultural understanding, and help to build a caring, engaged community.

The award came with a glass trophy and $250 check.

The Wonder Workshop started in 1989 when a scientist, special education teacher and principal in Manhattan piloted a three-year program intended to address the educational, recreational, and social needs of community youth and their families.

The cornerstones of this union were after school activities and interactive exhibits meant to unlock the secrets of science, technology, and delving into the rich traditions of diverse cultures.

The mission of the Wonder Workshop is to promote education in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

The goal is to develop self-reliant children, families, and community members through hands-on activities and exhibits that instill a desire for lifelong learning, recognizing cultural diversity, and fostering creative potential.

Recently, the Wonder Workshop Children’s Museum found a home at 506 S 4th Street that is owned by the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church agreed to allow the children’s museum to lease the building rent free for the next twenty years.

Pitts leads the efforts to find grants and volunteers to upgrade the building that needed a lot of TLC. The Caroline Peine Foundation, Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, Robert Bramlage and the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance provided funds to help restore the facility.

The Wonder Workshop Children’s Museum will begin serving children and their families at the new location in the spring of 2014.

For more information about Richard Pitts and the Wonder Workshop Children’s Museum, please contact the museum at 785-776-1234, or visit its website,

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