If you think a charity’s headquarters would have little appeal for families, you haven't been to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center. Opened last year, the Visitor Center features compelling interactive exhibits that give visitors a chance to become a part of its work, and that embody its motto: “Arrive curious. Leave inspired.”
See for yourself this Saturday, March 23, when the Visitor Center hosts “Family Day: Kick It Forward,” a kid-oriented event that’s all about soccer. The question at hand: With so many kids (and grown-ups) around the world playing soccer on any field, street or patch of dirt they can find, how can the force of this game be harnessed for good?
Among many activities, visitors will be able to meet former Sounders FC players Roger Levesque and Taylor Graham and hear how soccer has inspired them. Also attending will be Street Soccer Seattle, an organization that uses soccer teams to give homeless adults a community to which to belong.
Also during Family Day, kids can make their own soccer balls out of recycled materials, and everyone can marvel at Soccket, a ball that stores energy generated by play and later powers a small lamp. A pick-up game is planned as well, so come ready to play. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is free.
Kids exploring global problems
Even without a special event, the Gates Foundation Visitor Center warrants a visit. And while many exhibits target middle schoolers and up, families with elementary-age and even younger kids will find enough to entertain. A few highlights:
- Simple, powerful demonstrations showcase critical world problems and ask visitors to think about potential solutions. For example, kids can lift two buckets of water and then follow a pathway of footprints showing how far, on average, many people walk carrying the water they need every day.
- A small theater shows a continuous rotation of short films; staff can point out the best ones for the age of your crew.
- The Innovation and Inspiration Gallery spurs visitors to think about problem-solving with a screen that rolls out a question like a slot machine. “How could you provide transportation to homeless families if you had 50 laptops?” was the question posed to a recent visitor.
- At a table stocked with blocks, tiles, pipe cleaners and other supplies, visitors can construct an invention that helps solve a world problem, then take a photo of their product to become part of the exhibit.
- The “Share Your Cause” display trees at the end of the hall invite visitors to answer to fill out a card and hang it up to share. “[Blank] really needs your help” reads one card; “Draw your cause” says another. The end result is a collection of inspiring ideas and causes — just what the Center hopes you’ll leave with.
The message from the Visitor Center is clear: You don’t need to be a billionaire to make a difference in the world. It takes the ideas and actions of everyone.
Kick it forward: Kick it Forward will be held at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Admission is free.
Visitor Center hours: The Visitor Center is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Parking: The Gates Foundation Visitor Center is located just east of Seattle Center, across the street from Memorial Stadium. Directions here. Pay lots are nearby, as well as some street parking. Bus routes serving Belltown, Lower Queen Anne and traveling on Denny Way will get you close. For sustenance, QFC is just a block to the north.
Teen Night Out: The next special event hosted by the Gates Foundation Visitors Center is Teen Night, on April 26. Participants will learn about their peers who are making a difference, explore how to get involved themselves, and enjoy music, dancing and games. Check the Visitor Center’s Facebook page for more future events.