Great River Children’s Museum Blog

With so many needs in the world…

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the hurt in the world? We are constantly bombarded from countless media sources by all the bad news of poverty, natural disaster, political disaster, and suffering of every shape and size. Do you ask yourself why you should give to a children’s museum with so many needs to be addressed? This is an excellent question!

The answer is that you should give for all of those reasons and more. Children’s museums bring communities together, create jobs, and bring change to communities. Having a museum in our community creates opportunities for children who might never have this rich learning experience. Visiting the museum together will bring area families closer to each other by giving them high quality, hands-on play that builds relationships. The museum will be a place for children to learn creativity, collaboration and other skills necessary for success in a future we cannot yet fathom.

In order to make our world and community better, we need to address challenges that are happening here and now. We need to repair the hurts of the past. But the real key is to create solutions that will prevent problems before they occur. Our community has a unique opportunity with this project to create a wonderful resource that will improve the lives of everyone in the St. Cloud area for generations to come. We hope you will join us by donating today and helping spread the word about this project.

A Community Investment by Liberty Bank

Artist’s Rendering

Dan Miller, Mark Bragelman and Robin Gohman of Liberty Bank Minnesota are a few of the people we need to give special recognition. They have made a huge contribution to this organization and the community through the donation of the $1.4 million downtown Liberty Bank building to the Great River Children’s Exploratorium. We are honored and thrilled to be given this gift. We pledge to use our passion and expertise, along with the involvement of the community, to transform this space into one of play, exploration and learning.

Dan Miller and Becky Coborn started it all with a simple conversation. Becky had been working with GRCE in our location search. Dan Miller, as Chairman of the Board for Liberty Bank Minnesota, was in the process of building a new bank headquarters on 2nd Street South. Liberty Bank wanted to make their previous location a gift to St. Cloud and to downtown. A children’s museum was the perfect fit!

Mark Bragelman, President of Liberty Bank, has been very supportive throughout the process. With his expertise and 43 years of service at the downtown location, he has been a great resource and support. “This is where we live,” he said of the philanthropy of the individuals and the organization as he addressed the St. Cloud City Council. The children’s museum will be “something this community can be really proud of.”

Robin Gohman is currently the manager of the downtown bank. She has been extremely welcoming to our team as we have been on multiple tours of the building. We are thankful to her for her hospitality as we explore the ins and outs of our future home, while she is still operating the bank which will remain open until November.
We cannot say enough how grateful we are to be gifted this building. Our planning group was immediately struck by how well the Liberty Bank building fit our criteria: size, location, operating costs, and more. The building is in excellent shape and there is a lot of potential. As the community continues to share its resources, creativity and hard work, we will have fun together developing the space into a children’s museum.

Becky’s Mission and Vision for Central Minnesota

Becky Coborn is one of the first people to join the children’s museum project. In 2013, she began working as a licensed parent educator in ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) in Sauk Rapids-Rice School District. Her own children were grown and flown from the nest and she felt compelled to invest in the children of her community, their parents and families. She completed her master’s degree in Child and Family Studies from St. Cloud State University in 2016. For her thesis project, Becky researched the impact of children’s museums on parents in communities. She found that children’s museums help parents to better understand child development and how to encourage their child’s learning.

Becky has a deep love for the St. Cloud area and a desire to see our community thrive. While raising her children, she served as a volunteer in many different capacities at Sacred Heart Elementary School, Cathedral High School, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University. She strongly believes that building a children’s museum is the next best step for Central Minnesota.

Becky understands that the early years are a crucial stage in a child’s growth and development. Having a place for families to come where kids can be free to play, explore and try new skills in a safe, rich learning environment will have long-term benefits to the entire community. She hopes to see parents connecting with their children through the museum experience and gaining knowledge about child development. When families grow stronger, communities grow stronger.

Children at Play

There is something magical about children at play. Adults often reminisce about childhoods spent roaming the neighborhood, playing with other children, not an adult in sight, told to come back when it got dark. Some communities even sounded a horn to tell the kids it was time to head home.

When Jacob Wetterling was abducted, reality changed for generations of children in central Minnesota. Adults no longer feel safe letting kids venture distances unsupervised. Children’s free time is now filled with scheduled “play dates” and structured activities. Parents are busier working to pay for kids’ activities, planning, driving and juggling schedules.

Government initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have put the spotlight on schools’ test scores. Learning has become less about developing a natural curiosity and drive to discover and more about benchmarks and test taking skills. Experienced educators know that it’s skills like resiliency, emotional intelligence and self-control that determine success in life and these are skills best learned through the free play that is getting pressed out of school days and busy lives.

Play is a basic need of young children and adults alike. It is the way human brains are wired to learn. It is crucial for stress relief and mental health. One of modern society’s greatest challenges has become finding ways to get back to our roots of play. Play includes those creative experiences that happen when we carve out the space and time for free exploration, trial and error, and creating with others.

The Great River Children’s Exploratorium will be a place where parents can sit back, relax and delight in their children’s play. A place they can be confident that their children are safe to explore and learn. A safe haven, away from the noise of daily life, where adult caregivers can play and rediscover their inner child. While geared toward children from birth to ten, it will meet a need deep inside all of us.

What’s a Children’s Museum

A children’s museum is a place where kids can be kids. It’s a safe place to explore their world. The name “Exploratorium” reflects this purpose. Rather than a museum where we carefully preserve the old, children’s museums allow kids to:

  • Play as grown ups in environments just their size.

  • Create with a variety of materials from giant blue blocks to paint and clay.

  • Experiment with water or electricity.

  • Use their imaginations in limitless ways.

You can experience how many other Minnesota cities have accomplished this in St. PaulDuluthRochesterMankatoHutchinson and Grand Rapids. We look forward to adding St. Cloud to this list!

Something New! for Glen Palm and the St. Cloud Area

We are doing something new in central Minnesota! Opening a children’s museum is a large and complicated feat. It was begun several years ago with the dream of Glen Palm. 

Glen retired in 2013 from his position as chair of the Child and Family Studies department at St. Cloud State University where he spent his career teaching parenting education, supervising students, and writing about parent education and fatherhood. He is a longtime early childhood advocate in the St. Cloud Area. He originally founded Super Saturdays for dads and young children in District 742, a program that continues today. If you hear Glen joke that he “just got out of prison,” it is because of his important work with incarcerated fathers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud.

Through a children’s museum, Glen sees a chance to fill a need in the community for a safe place for children and families to practice 21st century skills such as creativity, problem solving, teamwork and resilience in a playful atmosphere. He also sees it as a community project that will unify people from diverse backgrounds throughout the St. Cloud area. Upon his retirement from SCSU, he set about tackling early tasks such as gathering a small team of dedicated volunteers, establishing a non-profit organization, orchestrating community studies, and outlining a business plan. The location search has taken some time, but now appears to be nearing completion.

With the finalization of a location will come a host of new challenges to be tackled. Glen and his growing team will approach each obstacle with the playful, creative spirit born in each of us in early childhood. The prospect of getting the whole community involved in creating a safe place for children to be children is exciting and energizing.

Welcome!

Welcome to the Great River Children’s Exploratorium blog! We will share news and updates about the progress of the museum, profile an important person involved in the project, and give you some background about the value of children’s museums. Thank you for checking us out.