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Leaves, Leaves, Leaves… Compost!

The past two weekends have been beautiful! We even have a couple more days that are supposed to be wonderful.  People are out and shaping their beds up, or perhaps more like “turning the sheets down” so their gardens may go to sleep.

This is the first year that I have had to get rid of HUGE quantities of leaves.  I really am not over exaggerating! I mean BIG! So big I used the largest kiddie pool you can get… You know the one with the steps and hand rail. I filled that thing up eight times, and that was only the back yard.

DSC_5308So what are some of the fun things that you can do with leaves and kids? There is the obvious, like running, jumping, and scrunching them.  Which was exactly what we did, but what about a science project!

What Leaves Can Do

Leaves are a wonderful source for gardeners, and as long as you have leaf bearing trees that are in the ground and producing leaves each year, consider them a part of your team! Leaves are an organic resource, and make a wonderful mulch for your garden.  Each year they are pulling up minerals from your soil, which in turn, when you use them in your garden they feed earthworms and little microbes in the dirt.  Leaves help to break up heavy soils, and retain moisture in sandy soil.  They also helps to balance nitrogen in your compost pile. They also are handy for the plants you have in your garden whose roots may need a little protection from the cold winter.

compost_in_binsMany gardener’s or Green Thumbs love this time of year to get a jump start for their gardens next year.  They usually have a pile or bin that they have grass clippings, leaves, dirt, coffee grinds, as well as fruit and veggie scraps that they’ve been setting aside during the year.  They will spend the winter going out and turning it over from time to time, to help the contents break up more easily. When spring rolls around they will have a pile of incredible compost to use for their garden.

So how can kids do this? Simple, it’s like cutting a recipe down for two instead of a big family.  Check out our fun project below!

DSC_5302What you’ll need!

  • 16 oz cups with holes in the bottom
  • 1 large bowl
  • Compost items: Leaves, grass clipping, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grinds, etc.
  • 1/4 cup soil or dirt
  • 1-2 teaspoons of water
  • plastic wrap
  • rubber band
  • large spoon
Pillbugs
Pill bugs help to eat decomposing plant materials and turn it into compost.

So go ahead and go outside and have some fun with your kids.  Find all your outdoor materials and add them to the bowl.  While doing so you might come in contact with some of natures helpers. You can also add some pieces of paper if you want.

Compost_CupWhen you have stirred all your ingredients, you can divide the contents of your bowl in the different cups. (Make sure your holes are already punched through.  Then add your saran wrap on top and then you can place your rubber band around the brim of the cub and saran, so it’s sealed.

Now find a place to put it.  Also make sure you put something underneath, since there are holes.  It will need a spot where it gets sun and shade.  Add 1 teaspoon of water periodically, and after doing so, give it a little bit of a shake.  Both the water and movement will help the materials inside it break down and turn into compost!

What does the sun and shade do?

Bacteria and fungi love the heat, and they are also what helps to break down all the materials you threw in the cup.  Whereas the shade will help to cool down the compost so the moisture won’t all escape.

Now that your compost cups are all ready, it’s time to keep and eye on them and watch what happens.

wormsWhat do worms do?

Worms are actually called an organism, and they eat the leaves, grass, and any other decomposing material. When they do so, they actually are producing compost too. Now for this project, you won’t need to add them, but in big compost bins, these little critters are a huge tool in breaking down the leaves, grass, or whatever else is in the compost bin. Worms are not the only all stars in the dirt however, pill bugs or what I like to call “rolly polly’s” also help.  Along with many other bugs!

What do you do with the compost?

After the ingredients you have made have turned into compost (which may take several weeks), it should look dark, crumble easily, and look like soil. You can now add it to your garden.

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Making a large compost bin.

For more articles on composting as well as how to make a large compost bin, visit our Pinterest Board Fun in The Garden.

Happy composting Discover! Friends!

 

Pillbugs

The Dark Cloud of Childhood… Bully

Big blue eyes stare at me with huge tears falling down his cheeks. It surprised me and then made my heart sad. What started off as watching a new movie for the family, turned into a sad little boy telling me about something that had happened last school year, and now worries him for the future. So I asked what had happened. He called him his arch enemy, the biggest bully he’d ever seen. He would follow him and push him down time and time again.  When he finally told the duty, the bully said that he was lying, and guess what… She believed him. He then said he spent the rest of the year trying to avoid him, and when things did happen the duty would still not believe him.

Is this hard to hear? Yes! Is it something that I wish he had told me before? You bet!

My son has a big heart. He is the kid that will watch the movie and hope for the bad guy to turn good. Hence his love for Darth Vader and the celebration that he turns back to the light. He prayed for the Denver Broncos to make one touchdown (even though he’s a total Hawks fan), because Peyton Manning looked sad.  When they did, he stood up and hollered and said “Yes, I prayed for that!”  Even though his father and I looked at him in shock, we were proud that he was looking out for the other team.

He’s one of the youngest in his class and gets easily excited, over energized, easily distracted, loves to hug, and forgets his size is intimidating, and he wants to be everyone’s friend. He can be easily razzed which I know is not a good trait to have around other kids.  Which is why I have always feared for him having this problem, and bummed when I find out that he has.  However, as his ever adoring parents our biggest fear is him feeling that he is alone in all this and not letting us know.

After he told me the whole story, I assured him the best that I could. I talked to him about the things I encountered as a kid, and then said how many people also have experienced being bullied. I also talked to him about things that we saw in this particular movie was a made up story, and the chances of the exact thing happening to him wasn’t likely. I can’t promise him though the particular experience wouldn’t happen again, so it made me think what I need to do to help him through the years. Be there, listen, support, give advice, and step in when needed.

This particular topic is probably fresh in many parents minds this month, and being that Discover! wants to help relay information that can help, here we find ourselves. October is an official month to become aware of bullying, therefore we plan on doing a mini series on it.  So let’s get started!

What is Bullying?

Most people know the answer to this question.  Everyone has been teased by a family member or friend in their life.  This teasing is usually not harmful because it’s meant to be playful or funny and both or all parties are enjoying it.  However when the teasing is done to hurt a person, or becomes constant, and needs to stop… then it is bullying.bullyingBullying is when a person targets another by either physically, verbally, or psychologically attacking them.  Pushing, name calling, forcing a person to hand over money or other items, threatening, ganging up on, and spreading rumors are all ways that we have witnessed this nasty process taking place. Now children don’t even need to be around each other.  The internet has broadened the playground in a virtual way, causing the same emotional damage, allowing bullies to pick on people they may know through school or perhaps perfect strangers.  However, there are no duties or fences to limit their reach, and unfortunately the boundaries are endless and supervision is almost nil.

Don’t Brush it Off

Bullying is to be taken seriously though. Many parents look at it as something that kids just go through. In many ways that is true, however children today deal with it and are exposed to it far differently than we ever were.

When we were young we were around our bullies at school every day. We got breaks from them though! We didn’t see them at the end of the day after school or sports, nor did we see them on the weekend or when we were out for school breaks. Now there are kids on social networks, they have cell phones, and they are able to talk or communicate with their friends all year long.

Those that may not be on social networks are not any less likely to be exposed to it. They may be in a neighborhood, daycare, live with, or be involved in another group setting where they find themselves in the proximity of a bully all the time as well. No matter the method, we have seen tragic things come about in some incidents, where children have taken their own life or lives of others in a desperate attempt to escape it.

What are the Signs

If your child doesn’t let you know, then here are some things to keep an eye out for.

  • Your child may start acting differently. They may have a loss of appetite, become anxious, lose sleep, and stop enjoying the hobbies or activities that they usually enjoy.
  • Their attitude may have changed. They may seem more easily agitated or depressed, and start to avoid situations like saying they are sick and can’t go to school, or not want to ride the bus, or want to quit a sport or club.
  • You may notice it yourself when you see them interacting. A bully may try hiding often from your child. They may purposely break, hide, or take your child’s toys. You may notice your child asking them to stop and the other won’t listen. Your child may start to stop play and seek you out, either for help or act as if they don’t want to play with them any further. You may also notice that when in a group setting that your child’s typical best friend starts to exclude them while playing.

Why do Kids Bully?

It can be very hard to understand why kids do this to each other.  Child development researchers have said this. Some children look for other kids that are weaker or different so then they can feel important, cool, or more powerful. In some cases, they also may be bullying because they are mimicking how they have been treated themselves. They may live in an environment where it is common to argue or call each other names. It’s also common to see bullies on television. They can see how people are treated or talked about, which in-turn promotes them to do the same.

Why Kids Bully

Why Do Kids Not Tell Us?

  • Children often feel guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed. They may worry that you will be upset or disappointed in them.
  • Sometimes kids think that it is there fault. They may feel that if they started acting differently the bully would stop.
  • They may be afraid to talk, because if the bully gets confronted or in trouble, they think the bullying towards them will get worse.
  • It’s also possible that they may think that you won’t believe them or you won’t do anything about it.
  • They may also be afraid that you would urge them to fight back when they are too scared to do so.

depressed child 4What do I do?

  • Tell your child that is is okay to let someone know what it happening. That they can tell you or another adult they trust.  Like a teacher or counselor, family member, or a family friend.
  • When they are telling you what has happened, listen calmly and comfort them.  They may fear that you have a bad reaction, and even if you react angry with the bully, they may think you are angry with them.  So be calm.
  • Let him/her know that you are so grateful that they shared what happened with you.
  • Tell them that they aren’t the only ones going through this and that everyone goes through something similar at some point.
  • Make sure to point out that what the Bully is doing is very bad behavior and that it’s not your child’s fault.
  • Assure them you are there for support, and that you will help them in any way to figure out how to get through the situation.
  • Contact the school, daycare, or club about the situation. Depending on the age of the child, and the extent of the bullying, your actions may be different.  Working out a solution with someone, such as a principle, counselor, or teacher is advisable.
  • Some parents may want to speak to the bully’s parents, as tempting as that may be, it’s better to have the school officials do so or have them present if you decide to contact them.

What Kids Should Do

It’s tempting to tell kids to defend themselves.  However this can lead to more trouble for both your kiddo and possibly yourself.  So what should you tell them to do? I know I’ve told my son to avoid them, and to make friends with other kids that are nice and hang around them all the time, you know the term “you are more safe in numbers.” I know I have also told him to let someone know.

So here is what you can tell your little ones.

  • Use the buddy system: If your child finds that it’s common for the bully to always approach them in a certain place try to find ways to avoid those situations, or have a friend that can come with you.  Also tell them to do the same for their friend.
  • Don’t give a rise: It’s natural to get worked up when something is happening that you don’t like, but chances are that is exactly what the bully wants to see.  Seeing your child upset makes them feel like they are more powerful or cooler then they are. Help your child to not react by crying or looking upset. Suggest that they walk away, breath, count, or find a calm quite place to sit and write down how they are feeling.  These are all ways to help not show the bully that their feelings are hurt.  This may be a time that you also teach them about the “poker face,” where they just walk away with a face that looks like nothing happened until they have been able to get away from the bully.
  • Ignore and walk away: Let your kiddo know that it’s okay and that they are allowed to firmly tell the bully to “Stop!” and then walk away. However, if that method does not work they can pretend that they didn’t hear or are uninterested in what they said. When they ignore the bully, they are basically conveying that they don’t care what the bully does or thinks. Eventually the bully will get tired of being ignored and hopefully become uninterested.
  • Tell someone: In order for something to be done, they need to know that it’s okay to tell someone.  Teachers, principles, counselors, parents, and many other staff workers can all help stop bullying.
  • Let’s talk: It’s okay to talk about it to an adult you trust, sibling, or other family member. They can help you with advice and help you feel better.

Make them Feel Strong Again

As mentioned before, the emotional damage that happens from bullying can be deep and hard to recover from. You can help them by letting them know that true friends are ones that are kind to them and make good choices. Also encourage them to take part in extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, church groups, or other activities they may enjoy.

Most importantly listen! Find out what happened in their day, both good and bad. Discuss ways that they can tell you something is going on without explaining, like a code word. When I was growing up my mom always told me that I could say that I wasn’t feeling well when something was wrong and she’d come and get me. Believe me I used this when I felt out of place on a few occasions, and I was grateful for knowing that I had my mom to bring me home. This will help them to learn that you’ve got their back, and knowing that they have a strong relationship with you, helps make a strong foundation for their well being.

Here’s our first article on bullying.  We know that it’s a lot of info to process and we hope that it has helped.  Hug your kiddos tight Discover! parents!

 

Rescources National Association for Child Development, Helpguide.org, and Kidhealth.org, and PBS Kids

 

 

Bees Buzzing in the Breeze

DSC_3393Honey Bees, the awesome little critters that keep many plants on this earth growing.  What would we do without these little wonders…  It is certainly not something we want to ever happen, therefore there are thousands of people that have become assistants to these incredible creatures.  We had the opportunity to meet one such family, that we are sure many of our Discover! friends may know… The Boyd Family! DSC_3349During our visit the Boyds had eighteen hives started.  The number can fluctuate depending on the queen and the strength of the hive.  By fall, many hives are combined in order to increase their chances of surviving throughout the winter.  After suiting up, we visited a large hive first.  After using the smoker to take a peak inside, Brandon’s first tid bit of information became very apparent!  “Honey bees are called social animals because they live in colonies and rely on each other.” Within the hive, there is a division of labor among the various kinds of bees in the colony.  A colony can include a queen, drones, and worker bees.

Brandon placed a little yellow mark on the back of this queen so she could be more easily spotted.
Brandon placed a little yellow mark on the back of this queen so she could be more easily spotted.

The Queen

The Queen is the only bee in the hive that is sexually developed.  She is the largest, and can be recognized by here elongated abdomen. She lives longer than all the bees in the hive.  Some say she can live years and years, but she is most productive the first two years of her life.

On the far right, you can see the undeveloped heads of two drones.  There cells stick our further than the rest of the larvae cells.
On the far right, you can see the undeveloped heads of two drones. There cells stick out further than the rest of the larvae cells.

 

 

The Drones

The Drones are the male bees in the hive.  Their job is leave the hive and to mate with a queen from another hive.  They do not collect food or pollen, nor do they tend the babies.  Sadly, in the winter time they are often kicked out of the hive because resources are scarce.

DSC_3392
Here you can see the girls busy at work. See all that honey!

The  Busy Workers

Workers are all girls!  In a colony there could be as many as 50,000 to 60,000 bees! Worker bees pretty much work themselves to death.  In the beginning of their lives they are nurse bees, then they graduate to field and scout bees.  They also protect the hive and make comb.  They are very busy, and live only about a month or less.  In the winter, they can live longer. 

Bee Facts

The worker bees keep the hive at a steady temperature all year round with their wing flaps.  They would like it to be 92-93 degrees.

Here is a worker bee arriving back to the hive with her legs covered in pollen
Here is a worker bee arriving back to the hive with her legs covered in pollen

Honey bees fly in a radius of about 3-5 miles from their homes to forage for flowers and food. Bees gather both nectar and pollen from flowers and trees. They bring the nectar back to the hive and regurgitate the nectar into a honey cell.  Then through flapping their wings, the bees evaporate some of the liquid in the nectar until it is honey. Then they cap it with a thin wax cover and store it for later use.

Bees use pollen, which is really sticky, and combine it with nectar to make bee bread.  They feed this bread to the baby bees.

Baby bees are called a brood.

Bees preform an essential act by moving pollen and nectar from one flower to another.  They pollinate the flowers and trees which allows fruits and vegetables to be created and to grow.  A hive can make 50-200 pounds of honey a year, and it takes over 150 trips to a flower or tree to make just one teaspoon of honey.

Hope you enjoyed our first blog post about bees.  We are hoping there will be many more.  Thank you Boyd family, we will check in with you again soon!  Happy honey making Discover! friends!

Discover! Crew Activity Sheets

Unfortunately we missed our blog entry last week.  One of our Discover! computers came down with a nasty virus.  Apparently even technology gets sick!

Anyways, getting back to all of you, we decided it has been a little while since we’ve had any new activity sheets for our Discover! fans.  So we decided to add a few more.

Tia’s Word Search: To print click green link below

Word Search 1

Word Search 1

Discover! Crew Jigsaw Puzzle: To print click green link below (This will require cutting)

Discover Crew Jigsaw

Discover Crew Jigsaw

For more fun FREE activity and coloring sheets, check them out at our site: http://www.discovermuseum.org/discovercrew.html

Have fun Discover! Friends!

Meet Marilynn!

Marilynn Chintella, Pilot Director and Board Member

Marilynn 2

Marilynn 3A Journey from Professional to Crazy – or How A Respected Science Teacher Became a Googly Eyed Vet

So, you may very well wonder about the photos above.  Just how does one transition from a standard professional photo into a googley eyed vet?  Wonderful and amazing things can happen at Discover! Children’s Museum.  Allow me to share a little about myself.

Marilynn 4Marilynn 7From an early age I had a love and curiosity of nature.  Just ask my Mom about those shell, bugs, leaves, and rock collections.  As well as hours of night time star gazing. It was only natural then for me to study science and education in college.  After 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching science in Sierra Leone, West Africa – I settled into a more traditional job teaching Life, Physical, and Earth sciences at Toledo Middle School.  Add to that – marriage and raising three children.  Time seemed to fly by!

But alas, all good things must end, and in 2011 retirement caught up with me.  However, that did not end my love of nature, kids, and learning.  In 2012, a close friend thought that with my background and experience in education, I might “fit in” with a group of folks who had a commitment to starting a children’s museum.  You know about those “matches made in heaven?”  This was one!

4 - Special Events Tab Under become weekend warriorWhen the pilot for Discover! Children’s Museum opened its doors in February of 2013; I began by serving as an Educational Liaison.  My job involved reaching out to schools and educational groups –both public and private – making presentations and extending invitations for teachers and children to come visit.  A few months later, I was invited to become Director for the remainder of the pilot program. What a marvelous opportunity!

Therefore, any good Director simply must dress up as a googly eyed vet on Halloween, right? That’s exactly what I thought too.

One of the many things Marilynn enjoys!  Star gazing!!!
One of the many things Marilynn enjoys! Star gazing!!!

 

Want to know a little bit more?

 

What you didn’t know about our dear Marilynn
  • I was born in Washington State, and except for my time with the Peace Corps, I’ve lived here my whole life – just in different cities!  Ballard, Edmonds, Seattle, and finally settling in Chehalis.  Chehalis has been my home for the past 36 years!
  • Parades! I DO love a parade and Lewis County has some of the best.  The 4th of July, the Santa Parade, and the Pet Parade, you are bound to find me along the sidewalk watching and waving!
  • My favorite local restaurant is Kit Carson!  Their crab sandwich is made in heaven and delivered right to my table.  Oh, and so are their cinnamon rolls!
  • One little thing many don’t know about me is that I’m a Champion!  Yes!  Twenty years ago I WON the pig calling contest at the South West Washington Fair here in Chehalis.  (Please don’t ask for a repeat demonstration though)

Until next time Discover! friends

 

Let it Grow! Let it GROWWWW!

 

A little kit purchased through Scholastic for $3.00
A little kit purchased through Scholastic for $3.00

This time of year, I start to get the itch to be outside.  If the temperature is slightly above chilly, and the sun is shining, I am most likely thinking of the garden outside my door.  What a miracle our earth is!  The fact that the smallest seed can turn into something beautiful, nourishing, or even help heal a wound or illness never ceases to amaze me.

The wonder doesn’t end there though!  That huge fire ball in the sky is a mystery in itself and without it, we would all cease to exist.  So today’s post is about science and the  miracle of life.  One simple seed, water, and the wonderful sun!

DSC_2401I had bought this greenhouse kit a while ago from Scholastic for a few dollars, and thought it would be a fun project for the kids and I as a little science project.  Since the weather was a little dreary, I thought it would be a perfect time to get our green house started.  There are many ways that you can do this too!  There are greenhouse kits at the local stores, but you can also do it with a milk jug,  a 1 liter bottle,  a mason jar, or even a fish bowl!

Here are many examples of ways you can make your own green, many of these things you can find in your home
Here are many examples of ways you can make your own green, many of these things you can find in your home. Image from wikiHow See link at the bottom of post.

Let’s Begin!

Kids love to be part of something big, even if it is just a little seed.   They will love to see their greenhouse come together and will want to be part of the build process! So don’t be afraid to include them by letting them do the tasks you feel most comfortable with.   When holes need to be poked in the bottom or scissors used to cut the jugs in half,  parents should preform these tasks or still supervise these steps when older children want to try do them.

TAPE!!!  Don't forget tape! It can come in handy when you don't want the greenhouse to slip out of place.
TAPE!!! Don’t forget tape! It can come in handy when you don’t want the greenhouse to slip out of place.

Tip:  We used tape to help keep our green house together.  I could see it being helpful too when putting together the 1 liter bottle or a jug, so the bottom part holding the dirt doesn’t shift around.

 

 

You can use whatever seeds you want, there is a huge variety at many stores in our area!
You can use whatever seeds you want, there is a huge variety at many stores in our area!

Bring on the Fun!

Now that you have your green house together, here comes the fun part!  Adding the dirt and the seeds!  You can use whatever kind you want.  We have Coreopsis, which are yellow and have a long bloom time.  The biggest bonus is that butterflies LOVE them!

DSC_2409DSC_2419

Now remember, it’s okay for kids to get dirty!

We added the soil (potting soil)  to each container, and then watered it down prior to adding the seeds.  Some soil is fairly moist, so you could possible skip that step.  Each seed packet will have different instructions, as to how far to put the seed into the soil.  Ours was only an 1/8″ of an inch.  Make sure to follow the directions on your seed packet for the best results.  We placed three seeds per container, and lightly pressed each seed down.  Then it was time for our little pots to settle into their green house!

Little water drops falling down the strings into each pot
Little water drops falling down the strings into each pot

Do not over water!

When the soil seems dry add a little water to your greenhouse.  Seeds like to grow in moist soil, but not soaked.  There should be no standing water,  and the holes that you poked at the bottom of your green house should let out in excess water.

When your seedling is getting to big for the greenhouse, it’s time to transplant them outside! Remember the directions on your seed packet, some plants may want full sun or partial shade.  So keep those planting tips in mind when looking for a place in your garden.  Dig a hole in the proper area and gently remove your seedling from it’s container and place it in the hole.  Cover the roots with the surrounding soil, and pat the soil gently at the top surrounding your seedling.  Continue to water the plant throughout it’s growing season so you can see how big it gets and what it turns into.  Flowers! Vegetable!  Now you just have to wait and see.  We can’t wait to see what ours become!  Happy planting Discover! Friends!

Patience is required while watching seeds grow!
Patience is required while watching seeds grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to talk about when doing this:

Soil, water, and the sun’s light help to make seeds grow.  Just like we need food, water, light, and rest to grow as well.

Explain that the roots of the plants absorb the water, sort of like we do when we suck up water through a straw.

Talk about how plants help to make the air we breath, and this why helping take care of our earth helps to promise clean air to breath.   Check out this link for more detail on explaining plants and the air we breath.  http://www.atmosphere.mpg.de/enid/1__Plants_and_climate/-_plants_and_environment_151.html

You have to love the internet, we found a great little how to on wikiHow: 

 http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Mini-Greenhouse

Follow us on Facebook, to find out more about Discover! Children’s Museum:   www.facebook.com/DiscoverChildrensMuseum

 

Where Discover! Came From

1-20-13 work day pic 1
The original founders of Discover!

The Story

In 2007, two women in our community had a vision to develop a Children’s Museum in the Twin Cities area of Lewis County.  This desire was driven by the need for a hands-on learning center where families can conveniently explore and lean in a creative and fun-filled environment.  There are no family activity facilities in the Chehalis-Centralia area with a focus on education.  During winter months there are few activities for families, and many families travel outside the County to visit similar facilities.

DSC_0266
Children playing with the rice table at our exhibit are at the SWW fair 2013

This need was clearly understood by the consultant who developed the Chehalis Renaissance Plan in 2009 and he included a recommendation to develop a Children’s Museum in the plan.  After the plan was adopted by the Chehalis City Council, the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team (CCRT) included the Children’s Museum as one of their many tasks to accomplish.  In late 2009 members of the CCRT partnered up with the original visioners, and additional volunteers, to form a Children’s Museum advisory group.  This six member advisory droup operates under the Friends of Chehalis Community Renaissance – a 501(c)(3) organization.

What Research has been done?

DSC-157
Kids are the building blocks of our future! Here’s one of our visitors in Tot Town of Discover! Pilot Museum

Since day one there has been an objective approach to evaluating the feasibility of locating a Children’s Museum in this community.  Extensive research has been completed over the past 3.5 years.  The advisory group joined the Association of Children’s Museum (ACM) which has been a tremendous resource.  The ACM truly serves as a resource for all Children’s Museum and not simply a membership organization; they are impressive when compared to other industry associations.  The ACM’s publication, Collective Vision:Starting and Sustaining a Children’s Museum, has been referred to many times to gain guidance through the planning process.  The ACM collects metrics data from all museum members on multiple data points.  We were able to review this data for museums in similar sized communities and extrapolate the data to estimate overall attendance to build an estimated operating budget.  Also utilizing this data, an extensive market analysis  was developed to study the attractiveness of the Children’s Museum in our area.  The analysis concluded that a western Lewis County region could support a Children’s Museum facility with a 103% ratio of Contributed Income to Earned Income. The expected annual attendance would be slightly greater than 21,000.

The ACM holds a national conference every year and coincidentally the 2012 conference was held in Portland, Oregon. The conference is well regarded with all members we spoke to and this year it included over 100 sessions spanning four days.  A special pre-conference was offered to emerging museums.  Two representatives of our advisory board attended the conference.  A wealth of knowledge was returned.

The group held an invitational public brainstorming session in May 2010 to seek input from stakeholders on the reasons for a Children’s Museum, what a Children’s Museum should look like in our community, what it should not look like, and what would their vision of a Children’s Museum in our community be?  We were pleased to find out the majority of our planning was in line with the vision of future stakeholders and all additional input has been incorporated into our planning.

One visiting grandfathers and grandson, creating new pathways with the water table at the SWW Fair in 2012
One visiting grandfather and grandson, creating new pathways with the Splash water table at the SWW Fair in 2012

Over the past few years we have participated in many public functions to gain awareness for the museum project.  Our largest involvement has been the Southwest Washington Fair.  We have designed and built two extensive interactive exhibits, collectively costing $10,000, to display during the fair prior to the pilot museum opening.  These exhibits have served as a great educational tool in exhibit building along with how children interact with the exhibits.

An important step completed was the development of our mission and vision statement for the Children’s Museum.  Along with this planning came the official name: Discover! Children’s Museum.  Check out our mission, vision, and goals here: http://www.discovermuseum.org/about.html#Mission

The group conducted phone interviews with six museums in similar sized communities to discuss their revenue sources, impact of the recession, school and education programs, contributed income sources, challenges to serving children over 10 years of age, exhibit sponsorship, new facilities, difficulties running a museum, poor uses of money, staff makeup, and any open advice.  A common theme from the successful museum was they all began with a pilot project before jumping into a full museum.  These pilot projects allowed them to test the waters in their community and gain vital support before starting up a large operation.

Therefore we created Discover! Children’s Museum Pilot Project

Based on the input of experienced successful museums, a pilot project project was opened in February 2013 to highlight a local Children’s Museum opportunity.   The pilot project was a scaled down version, only 4,000 square feet, located in the Twin Cities Town

Some of the many volunteers that helped during the construction of the Discover! Pilot Museum construction in January 2013
Some of the many volunteers that helped during the construction of the Discover! Pilot Museum construction in January 2013

Center.  There were a total of twelve exhibits for children to interact with, in addition to many Weekend Warrior events that were held by the Children’s Museum itself or local groups that interacted with our young visitors.

In the early stages of preparation, the committee spent much time developing job descriptions and selecting staff.  A volunteer Coordinator was recruited and we found to be essential to the pilot project, in order to find and arrange volunteers throughout the eleven months the pilot museum operated as well as for events outside the museum.

The goal of the pilot project was to obtain results and measurable objectives.   Through the eleven months of operation, these were some of our findings.

  • Attendance started well above anticipated pace and stayed that way
  • Volunteer support was wonderful, leaving Discover! to only have 1.5 paid positions during the course of the pilot
  • Director Marilynn Chintella connected Discover! to many schools and children service, which led Discover! being a host to 700 students
  • Our anticipated six month pilot extended to eleven months
  • Paid attendance was 15,500, which was triple our expectation

There were also some things that we learned through operating the pilot project.

  • We understand how to design the space, where children and parents feel safe and comfortable
  • We know the most efficient ways to operate a safe and healthy facility
  • We found that the community is a part of our team.  As they demonstrated by helping us with renovations, exhibit construction, volunteering hours throughout operation, as well as participating in the breakdown and clean up of the pilot.
  • All of the data collected supported our feasibility study
  • Our mission of “Education First” was validated
  • Location really matters, since 35% of visits were serendipitous

So where do we go from here.  Check that out on our next blog!  What’s the Next Step?

 

Our Last Day at Discover! Pilot Children’s Museum

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One of our friendly visitors

We started Discover! Children’s Museum Pilot project, which was set to open at the beginning of February 2013 and close in July.  The purpose was to see how a small scale Children’s Museum would do in our community.  Operations went so well, that Discover! was able to stay open till the end of October… and then the end of December.  December became the final month, when enough data was collected to move onto the next leg of our project.  So on the last day we decided that it was a day to rejoice, invite everyone with no admission charge, and have a party!  Closing day was full of fun and celebration.  We were fortunate enough to have more than two hundred visitors, and many of whom were visiting for the first time.  We even had a tortoise visit us as well!

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The place is hopping

Even though many were a little sad to see us go, it was still fun.   Every exhibit was busy with little feet and little hands exploring the possibilities, which is exactly why our group wanted to open a museum for children in the first place.

Parents, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles followed their kiddos from place to place, and many joined in the fun.  Watching them laugh and work together as they built, created, and encouraged one another made us realize that yet another one of our goals had been met.  To see families come together, learn, and grow.  One family created this masterpiece!

One visiting family created this farewell message on Raygen's Amazing Heart exhibit.
One visiting family created this farewell message on Raygen’s Amazing Heart exhibit.

When it was closing time, our crew had a little bit more time to reflect and celebrate the success of Discover! Pilot Children’s Museum.  Lots of fun stories were shared, as well as goals reached, and visions of what we knew we could see in our future!   We are so excited to serve your families for years to come!