Development Timeline

The museum project began in 2012 at the dining room table of Glen Palm and Jane Ellison. It has gone through many stages in its evolution. Now, as it begins to take on physical form at the downtown location, let us take a look back at the many milestones along the way.

2012

  • Established Great River Children’s Exploratorium as a 501c3
  • Met with community leaders/groups

2014

  • Joined the Association of Children’s Museums as an emerging museum
  • Studied children’s museums in similar sized midwest communities
  • Completed a needs assessment

2016

  • Collaborated with CentraCare Health System to bring the Healthyville exhibit to the Stearns History Museum

2017

  • Created a planning team
  • Discussed a second pop-up exhibit in collaboration with early childhood programs

2018

  • Met with Minnesota Children’s Museum staff and toured $30 million expansion
  • Attended webinar with SCSU faculty/staff about collaboration between children’s museums & universities
  • Explored building sites for a future location
  • Recruited and expanded board membership to 14 members
  • Ran a successful matching campaign for a $25,000 grant
  • Formed committees and refined the mission statement during a board retreat
  • Met with museum planners Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Roe
  • Changed name to Great River Children’s Museum
  • Finalized building donation by Liberty Bank in downtown St. Cloud

2019

  • Legislation introduced for Legacy funding

Contact your representatives and ask them to support HF396 which provides funding for the Great River Children’s Museum. This bill was authored by Dan Wolgamott and Tama Theis. The companion bill in the senate is SF645 and was introduced by Senator Jerry Relph.

Our Busy Board

The Great River Children’s Museum Board of Directors has had an extremely busy month. From board development to moving day, it has been several weeks of milestone events. You can learn more about our board members here.

Nov. 17 – The board attended a retreat facilitated by Linda Holliday and Kathy Gaalswyk of Impact Minnesota. During the retreat they were able to learn about board member roles, review bylaws, define their mission and values, and form committees. The committees are working groups including community engagement, fund development, finance, facilities and personnel. There will be a follow-up retreat coming early next year.

Nov. 28 – Mark Bragelman, Robin Gohman and other representatives from Liberty Bank brought our group on a tour of the Great River Children’s Museum’s soon-to-be home. Museum planners Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Roe met with the board and planning group to share their ideas about how the building could be used to bring community members inside to join in the museum planning process and play together. It was exciting to dream about using this new space.

Dec. 4 – Closing day! Board members Glen Palm, Greg Reigstad and Becky Coborn were present for the signing of the documents and the handing over of the codes and keys.

Since that day, it has been fun exploring the building, discovering which key fits in which lock and which code opens which door. There has also been the work of moving in, with furniture that was donated by Coborn’s, Inc. Thanks to a Thrivent Action Team, we were able to purchase paper products and other supplies needed to host our volunteer board and committees for work in our new space. After a tour with the fire marshall, the facilities committee has a list of initial work that needs to take place in the building in order to safely host family friendly events.

Dec. 10 – The Great River Children’s Museum Board of Directors held its first meeting in the new location. The results of the board retreat were voted on and made official. The board has grown over the past six months from three voting members to fourteen. Solidifying the foundational documents and board structure has been a major focus of the board’s most recent time together.

New Name!

As you may have noticed, the Great River Children’s Exploratorium is now officially the Great River Children’s Museum! The board voted unanimously at the October 15th meeting to change the name after being approached by The Exploratorium in San Francisco. The word exploratorium is trademarked by this museum and when we started getting media attention for our project, they reached out to let us know we were not able to use the name.

The board agreed that we wanted to keep Great River as part of our identity because of the importance of the Mississippi River in our region. We look forward to educating people about the river through an indoor, interactive water play feature. We hope it will be a cornerstone exhibit.

We agreed that Children’s Museum was the best way to describe us. A children’s museum is something that many people are familiar with and associate with the high quality programming we plan to deliver. For those who don’t know what a children’s museum is, we look forward to showing them a place for playful, hands-on learning geared toward children ages zero to ten and appealing to the child in all of us.

The name change process will continue over the next several weeks. During this time you may notice the change reflected in our website, social media and printed materials. We are thankful to receive notice of this issue early in the project, while the financial impact of this shift is still very minimal. Overall, having a name that our entire board has agreed upon will be a positive for the organization once the transition is complete.

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.

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.