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Open Wed–Sun 9am–4pm, plus late on Thur til 8pm. • Get tickets.

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Stair Trek

Stair Trek part of Madison Children’s Museum’s Design to Move initiative, created to foster healthy behavior through interactive design.  We rebuilt our two public staircases into engaging exhibits to keep kids interested and motivated even as they climb through seven stories from the bottom of the Wonderground to the Rooftop Ramble. Core to Cosmos and Zip, Zap, Zoom, make taking the stairs the most fun and engaging way to travel through the museum, while encouraging healthy movement along the way.

Stair Trek: Core to Cosmos


Embark on an interactive journey through the universe, from the depths of the Earth’s core, through caves, forests, tree canopies, sky, and to the remote reaches of outer space. Stair Trek: Core to Cosmos features the voices of children from the Madison community, who describe the sounds, smells, textures, and feelings of each environment in poetic, playful, unexpected, and profound ways. The exhibit includes hundreds of drawings collected from children over the past year.

The experience is a choreographed concert of image, sound, and light, which is different on every adventure through the space. Madison Children’s Museum engaged celebrated local digital media artist, Jojin Van Winkle, on the conceptual development, project design and implementation of the sights and sounds of the stairwell.

Stair Trek: Zip, Zap, Zoom

Travel the alphabet from A to Z, from the ground floor all the way to the rooftop!

 In Zip, Zap, Zoom kids scale a magical, multi-story, spiral climbing sculpture amidst the whimsical sounds and visions of onomatopoeia words.

About Stair Trek

Creatively designed, active stairwells

Redesigning existing stairwells to change behavior and encourage healthy choice and playful experiences.

Stair Trek is a series of re-imagined stairwells that are part of a larger, multi-year community initiative, Design to Move. This project was created in response to a health crisis facing many children and families in Dane County that is related to a lack of physical activity. In 2015, the CDC stated that, for the first time in history, children today are projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Physical activity needs to be integrated back into daily life through urban design and community environment. Built-in opportunities for exercise—specifically existing, code-required stairwells—are often the most underused and least engaging spaces in a building, while elevators have become more central.

Madison Children’s Museum and American Family Children’s Hospital, along with a robust group of community partners, including the Madison Fire Department, the Healthy Kids Collaborative, Dane Arts. and the Madison Art Commission, are changing public health through creative design, and will change the behaviors of children and families in Madison by turning healthy choices into exciting and playful experiences.

Thank you to our Stair Trek sponsors

Stair Trek is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Richard B. Anderson Family Foundation, Diane Ballweg, Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, Jim Berbee & Karen Walsh, Dane Arts with support from the Evjue Foundation, and Madison Arts Commission with support from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Madison Children’s Museum has received additional contributions from the Play Everywhere Challenge, a collaborative grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, KaBOOM!, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department for Housing & Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Community partners for Design to Move include American Family Children’s Hospital, Bayview Foundation, Urban Land Interests, Dane Arts, Healthy Kids Collaborative, Madison Arts Commission, Madison Fire Department, One City Early Learning Center, University of Wisconsin Department of Art, UW Health, and The YWCA Madison. Thank you to the many departments in the City of Madison and Dane County who collaborated on this project.

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