Entering the IDEAS Studio is like falling into the rabbit-hole in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. At the studio, one might find a new intergalactic spaceship, the Orion; a realistic jungle filled with life-sized stuffed giraffes and tropical flowers dangling from the rafters; or a pirate ship complete with buried treasures.
The Studio’s 2400 square-foot space was designed by co-founder and CEO Zac Hartog, and his dad, Michael, who serves as the Studio’s vice-president of design and development—both of whom have had successful Hollywood careers as production designers.
“Our mission was to create a place that encourages children to bring their ideas to life, where their environment becomes a third teacher,” said Zac Hartog.
More than an indoor play space, the IDEAS Studio offers kids the opportunity to take part in real life problem solving. Think a state-of-the-art computer lab designed to resemble NASA's Mission Control, where kids can take virtual walks on the moon.
At a module known as gadget central, home to the LEGO Robot Family, kids can build, program and race robots in the Robo-arena.
A high-tech science lab offers a variety of opportunities for both boys and girls alike, from discovering bugs up close under a digital microscope to making perfume.
“There’s nothing more exciting than to be part of something real,” said co-founder and chairman Maurizio Vecchione. “At the IDEAS Studio, we aim to give kids a lifelong way to approach problems through teamwork and the process of self-discovery.”
Hartog and Vecchione brought this mindset to life melding their arts and science backgrounds together to create the IDEAS Studio in May 2005. The two met at their childrens’ preschool, where their daughter and son, respectively, were in the same class. Brainstorming about ways to nurture and enrich the lives of their children, they reminisced about their own childhoods, recalling how hobbies helped shape their careers. “As a child, my hobby was astronomy,” recollects Vecchione, a former physicist, who now finances and manages high-tech companies, adding that Hartog, “enjoyed building stuff as a kid.”
Mixing the creative with science makes for the IDEAS Studio’s potent concoction. Prior to the Studio’s physical inception, Hartog conducted a powerful experiment of his own, inviting a 2nd grade class to “participate in” a trip to Mount Everest, where he was working on an environmental documentary with film partner, Billy Marchese. By linking the class to the crew’s base camp via satellite, the children were active participants in the project studying all aspects of the expedition from geology to geometry to cinematography. “They never missed a lesson,” says Hartog. “It was tremendously successful for me on both a personal and professional level.”
Since that initial test, Hartog, Vecchione and the IDEAS Studio team, have designed over 100 class curricula, benefitting the more than 4,000 children, who have participated in the program. “Kids are our most important advocates,” says Vecchione.
Every quarter, the class schedule changes, bring fresh and innovative ideas to the table. Glancing at the Studio’s Winter Schedule, one will find a range of classes from Fairytale Theatre, where children are invited to explore both classic tales to creating their own; to Inventor’s Club, where kids are encouraged to invent gadgets and games.
In addition to a variety of classes for all ages from toddler up to pre-teens, the IDEAS Studio offers summer camp (registration for this summer’s session begins in March 2008), school field trips (the studio customizes them to correlate with class curriculum) and themed birthday parties.
There’s even a Kids' Club, the Studio’s monthly disco party, where pre-teens can dance the night away in a safe, fun environment.
The IDEAS Studio gives back in numerous ways, including a school fundraising program, where the studio donates 5% of a child’s program fee to their school. The school with the most students enrolled each session receives an additional donation based on the number of enrollments.
For more big ideas, visit www.theideastudio.com.