After 3 busy hours with 3 busy kids on a busy Tuesday morning at Saskatoon’s Nutrien Wonderhub, I was feeling a bit scattered. In a bit of system overload, I contemplated how I could best relay the cornucopia of sensory play experiences we’d just enjoyed. Short of formulating a long but inevitably incomprehensive list of the facility’s features, I wanted to convey the fantastic variety, quality and uniqueness of its attractions. What struck me as the most effective way was simply to relay 4 short stories about our family’s time at Nutrien Wonderhub and to encourage readers to fill in the blanks by attending themselves.
“Down we go!” offers an enthusiastic attendant in the elevator/mine shaft that takes us down to the facility’s Discovery Mine. We are geared up with reflective vests, hard hats, safety glasses and tool belts and ready to discover more about one of Saskatchewan’s foremost industries. “Why is everything pink?” my 10 year-old son asks as the doors open to reveal a hub of industry. An auger of some variety is lifting ‘raw materials’ up to the surface as would-be miners load ore onto the conveyor while a replica buggy is swarmed by kids eager to change its batteries. My daughters scurry off to operate the ‘rotor borer machine’ or, as I see it, the gigantic drill-digging thing in the corner. “I believe Potash is pink,” I tell him as he surveys the scene, eventually choosing the only activity in the mine involving a touch screen. I nestle myself into a corner so as not to disrupt the flurry of those deeply engaged in immersing themselves in the experience of life underground at a Saskatchewan Potash mine.
“MOM, watch this screen!” I obey and have the strangely comical experience of watching my 5 year-old appear as a rock star writhing, jumping and singing with her eyes passionately closed as she performs for herself inside one of the many Boxes o’ Fun located in the North Gallery of Nutrien Wonderhub. I am interrupted by a tug on my arm, “MOM, come see something!” I obediently follow my 8 year-old into a black-lit box where we marvel at how our socks and shirt sleeves glow like Christmas. “MOM! I TOLD YOU TO WATCH ME ON THE SCREEN!” My other daughter surfaces with a vengeance, quickly placated as she admires her shoelaces, “MOM, they’re shining!” “MOM!” this time my son peaks his head in and announces, “I’m going to play with Callum.” “Okay, but we’ve got to be home by 1. Let’s meet at the…” I trail off. He’s gone.
“Mom, I beat the record!” My daughter smiles beside her tower of stacking cups, an impressive 8 layers high. “That’s awesome Genevieve!” I look up from the paint chip flower craft which I’ve been sheepishly nursing for the better part of 45 minutes (crafts are for parents too, right?). “I’m going to go build a bridge!” she says and relocates to another table, this one complete with all the requisite materials for the popsicle stick bridge that dreams are made of. My other daughter is in her happy-place at the craft station next to mine, dripping paint brush in hand, working on an interpretive pineapple for the Create Space’s display of favourite summer foods. The minutes tick over into the hour, and I quietly wonder as to the whereabouts of my son.
“NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO!” my daughters chorus. “Sorry ladies, we’ve got to go. The cable guy is coming.” We start winding our way back towards the entrance. “Where is Oliver?” I ask out loud. “MOM! Can we go up the net one more time?” “Sure. But just until I find Oliver,” I tell them. I double back and check the Parks Canada display on the lower level where I’d last seen him and his cohort. Not there. I climb the stairs to the mezzanine to see if he’s opted for some time in quiet contemplation. No luck. I look left and right as I breeze back through the Boxes O’ Fun and, the preschool-centric, Toon-Town. I offer a silent prayer that I will not find him making a scene unsupervised and breaking the under-3 rule in the Little Bridge toddler area. I am vindicated. Puzzled, I begin to imagine he and his buddy have jetted out for a Root Beer on the town. As I head back to consult the girls, I am relieved, if a little creeped out, as I walk by one particular Box O’ Fun with thousands of moveable pegs to see…