The Great River Children’s Museum Board and Facilities Committee was invited to tour the Science Museum of Minnesota on March 6th. They were able to go behind the scenes to learn about exhibit design and fabrication. The group was impressed by the size and scope of the work done by the 27 person staff who build exhibits for museums around the world. Each exhibit is custom designed and built for a particular museum with their unique community in mind. There are infinite possibilities for what could be done. The tour sparked the imagination of all who attended. The biggest takeaway for Buddy King was that it takes between six months and two years to bring an idea from development to display in the museum. This gave everyone a sense of the timeline for planning the remodel and exhibit spaces. The group left feeling very excited about the future of the Great River Children’s Museum.
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.
- Established Great River Children’s Exploratorium as a 501c3
- Met with community leaders/groups
- Joined the Association of Children’s Museums as an emerging museum
- Studied children’s museums in similar sized midwest communities
- Completed a needs assessment
- Collaborated with CentraCare Health System to bring the Healthyville exhibit to the Stearns History Museum
- Created a planning team
- Discussed a second pop-up exhibit in collaboration with early childhood programs
- 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
- 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.
At this time of year and this stage in our project, it seemed appropriate to share our board update in the form of a metaphor.
If a children’s museum were a snowman…
If a children’s museum were a snowman, we would be finished rolling the biggest of the snowballs. Our organization is being led by a strong board with a shared mission, which makes for a solid foundation. We also have a physical foundation in our solid, historic downtown building.
At this point, we are gathering snow for the midsection, the heart of the organization, which is our community. We are bringing on new people like IT experts, architects, and marketing specialists to help in creating a space where families will gather like so many snowflakes, all unique but united in play.
The snowball for the head is just beginning to come together. It is always the quickest and easiest to roll, but it is also a challenge to lift up to the top and is critical to the finished product. What’s a snowman without a head? A museum without a director? The search is beginning.
The final step of dressing up our snowman will involve many decisions. Will our snowman wear a beret or a top hat? Is it going to have buttons and if so how many? We have a board visioning session coming in February. This will be the next big step in guiding our work. We look forward to getting the community’s input on the many choices ahead.
We have a great team all pitching in together and we are having a blast. Rolling snowballs and stacking them on top of each other takes a lot of muscles all pushing and lifting in unison. Board members, consultants, volunteers, and donors in our community can all take pride in our accomplishments as the finished product takes shape.
We have a mailbox! The Great River Children’s Museum will be receiving bills and, we hope, donations at the new location. It would bring us joy to receive your family or organization’s holiday photo card. Seeing supporters’ faces will encourage our board and community members as they work to develop a place for children and their caring adults to discover, explore, and be inspired through the extraordinary power of play. We would also welcome notes of support with ideas for activities and exhibits you would like to see in the museum. Address all mail to:
Great River Children’s Museum
111 7th Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Everyone at the Great River Children’s Museum hopes you and your loved ones enjoy many play-filled moments together this holiday season!
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.
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.
The Great River Children’s Exploratorium has been a member of the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) at the level of an emerging museum for several years. This membership gives our board and planning group access to educational opportunities at minimal cost. The infographic shown here was released as part of the most recent research into the economic impact of children’s museums. As you can see, the investment in a children’s museum has an immense ripple effect on other areas of the local and regional economy. Children’s museums provide jobs and drive growth in other industries. We appreciate the ACM gathering the data to support what we know intuitively. This information supports the work we are doing to bring a children’s museum to Central Minnesota. Learn more about the Association of Children’s Museums at childrensmuseums.org.
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.
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.
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.