Region 5 Children’s Museum
With a population of 162,000 that expands by approximately 300,000 annually through tourism, the Brainerd Lakes area is truly a beloved “up north” destination in Minnesota. Brainerd’s emerging Region 5 Children’s Museum (working title) envisions a more connected Minnesota and will actively bring together people from diverse backgrounds in shared experiences through the exploration of northern Minnesota’s rich art, culture, and heritage. After an initial five years of dedicated planning and development, the children’s museum is ready to begin providing educational, hands-on programming that engages children, families, educators, and the community. Playful Explorations: Creating Connections through Art, Culture, and Heritage, the children’s museum Legacy Grant project, will provide residents and visitors with opportunities to enjoy and benefit from 60 programming events in at least 20 communities over the 18-month grant cycle. In addition, local engagement specialists will bring programming directly to at least 100 participants experiencing significant participation barriers. Playful Explorations programming events will be delivered by local professional and emerging artists, along with children’s museum professionals. Artwork, stories, and other participant-generated content will be collected and recorded to inform and to be integrated into the design and development of future children’s museum’s exhibits, environments, and programs. The children museum will engage communities of all ethnicities, abilities, and incomes and will pay special attention to reaching community members experiencing participation barriers.
Myra Peffer (Bemidji, MN): Myra was the Executive Director of a children’s museum in Vermont, and has consulted with many museums (including the Children’s Discovery Museum) as a now-resident of Minnesota. She was recommended by the Children’s Discovery Museum, and recused herself of that scoring/discussion.
Bette Schmit (St Paul, MN): Bette Schmit is the Exhibit Developer at the Science Museum of Minnesota – recommended by Carol Aegerter, her expertise is in exhibit design and support.
Josh Ney (Minneapolis, MN): Josh Ney is a board member of the Minnesota Humanities Center, and also has experience working with the legislature and the Legacy Committee.
Minnesota Humanities Center
$625,000 each year is for grants to other children’s museums to pay for start-up costs or new exhibit and program development. Funds are to be distributed through a competitive grant process. The Minnesota Humanities Center must administer these funds using established grant mechanisms.
To measure the effectiveness of accomplishing the stated goals, the children’s museum projects the following outcomes:
- The children’s museum will facilitate 60 hands-on arts, culture, and heritage-related programming events in three phases over the 18 months of the grant cycle.
- Families in at least 20 communities within Region 5 will benefit from being host sites of arts, culture, and heritage-related programming events.
- We conservatively estimate that at least 2,400 individuals will participant in the arts, culture, and heritage-related programming events, an average of at least 40 participants at each of the 60 programming events.
- At least 300 examples of input will be collected to inform the design and development of exhibits, environments, and programs. The examples of input collected may be in the form of art, recorded stories and conversations, quotes, surveys, or other input-engaging forms, to be determined by the design and development team at the outset of the project.
- Since the program events will be free to the public, the children’s museum expects high numbers of participants who otherwise experience participation barriers taking part in these programming events. In addition, the children’s museum will seek out, engage, and collect input from at least 100 families expressly experiencing participation barriers. These families may be experiencing financial hardship, isolation, cultural barriers, proficiency or special need issues, or other participation barriers.
- Exhibit and environment schematic designs for the new children’s museum will reflect the input collected from diverse participants throughout the region.
This has been a very exciting grant period for us. In April, we were able to distribute over 400 Play Packets (as described in our last report). However, we weren't done there. Beginning in May of 2021, we were able to start doing in-person programming both at our studio in the Franklin Arts Center and throughout the region. Between the beginning of May, 2021, and the end of October, WonderTrek Children's Museum was able to facilitate 184 different play experiences for children throughout the region. These included:
- over 25 separate festivals in 15 towns in Region 5
- approximately 50 events at libraries in 5 different communities
- programs at 20 different elementary schools throughout the region
- a coordinated effort with therapists at Greater Minnesota Family Services to provide approximately 40 play therapy experiences for young children who have experienced trauma.
In addition to programming, we have been able to continue to further develop our infrastructure and have hired on two additional staff. These two Program Coordinators have aided in program development, facilitation, and marketing.