Why Build a New Children’s Museum in Sun Prairie?

August 12, 2020
  • By: Katey Kamoku, with contributions from the Art in the City bench artists

    What is a children’s museum exactly … ?

    A place for kids to play right? Well, yes, but there is A LOT more going on. Children’s museums are beloved by children because they are filled with exhibits that invite children to play in their way – by touching, trying, making noise, self-directing, pushing buttons and using their whole bodies. Amiright?? But there is a lot more happening in a child’s brain and body when they are playing. Play is obviously fun, but what we are truly witnessing is the development of empathy and perspective, the discovery of new passions, the ability to make sense of their experiences, and the cultivation of lifelong critical thinking and problem solving skills. Children learn and make sense of the world through play.

    Children’s museums create an environment that piques children’s inherent appetite to learn (and grow and develop and explore) in the most effective way possible – through play.  Therefore, by definition a children’s museum is “a nonprofit educational and cultural institution committed to serving the needs and interests of children by providing exhibits and programs that stimulate curiosity and motivate learning.” (Association of Children’s Museums)  Kids will play just about anywhere. But when children play at a children’s museum, parents and caregivers trust that the environment is designed to stimulate curiosity and encourage learning. They believe that the exhibits will spark kids’ imaginations, inspire intrinsic motivation, and that the atmosphere will promote a lifelong pursuit of discovery and innovation. 

    Ok, that makes sense. But Why do we need one in Sun Prairie when we have one in Madison?

    Great question. The goal of Explore Children’s Museum is to establish a local educational institution as a complement to all the other great institutions already in existence. This includes schools, local organizations, and other children’s museums. Childrens’ museums are where families spend time together while children explore existing passions and discover new ones. Our goal in opening a children’s museum is to expand educational opportunities for the children in Sun Prairie and the surrounding communities; to create hands-on, informal learning opportunities that help develop critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and communication skills; to encourage kids to discover and develop their passions; to stimulate curiosity and motivate learning; to provide opportunities for purposeful play and collaboration; and to enhance community engagement. Childrens’ museums can do all of this, so the question really becomes “why aren’t there childrens’ museums in every city?!”

    Why Sun Prairie? As you *may* know (wink wink) Sun Prairie and the surrounding communities are growing quickly, with many young families moving into the area. But did you know that the Sun Prairie Area School district alone has approximately 500 incoming kindergarteners every year and 6,000 babies are born in Dane County every year. Yes you read that right, 6,000 babies born every year in Dane County alone! Sun Prairie is booming with new families and businesses and the opportunities they present. For our youngest residents, a new children’s museum is a perfect fit.  

    How do children’s museums benefit families and other community members?

    To answer this question let’s hear from our amazing Art in the City bench artists, many of them Sun Prairie residents themselves. Zach Bartell, a Madison native and artist, painted the Lava Lamp bench (and the super duper amazing mural inside Full Mile!) says that “as a father of a toddler he feels it is very important for children to have various outlets for learning and adventure, and the Explore Children’s Museum will be just that! [Children’s museums] are a great way to encourage growth and development in a safe environment.” Briony Foy, the “Dot” bench artist says that “every community needs a safe, caring environment where children can learn to explore, discover, fail and succeed – where they can learn to play and grow.”

    Some of the bench artists commented on why Sun Prairie will be a fantastic place for a new children’s museum. Erica Beckman, owner of two Sun Prairie businesses, Evoke Studio and Right Bauer Brewing, says that she is “so excited for the prospect of having a children’s museum in Sun Prairie. It is such an important addition to the city’s rapid growth and space for the community to share. Having a space where children in our community can engage with each other through interactive exhibits that are fun and provide good learning opportunities is a valuable part of developing an inclusive culture in our city that welcomes children from all families to help us celebrate our diversity.” Ami Verhalen, longtime Sun Prairie resident and artist of the “Night Tide” bench notes that “Sun Prairie’s businesses, neighborhoods, families and schools have grown, and the Explore Children’s Museum is a unique opportunity to bring wholesome experiences for families and kids to spend their time together rather than needing to go to Madison for them.”

    Sun Prairie High School teacher Jennifer Rogers, artist of the “Sit and Count with Me” bench sees the lasting positive impact of early childhood experiences such as visits to children’s museums, saying “Sun Prairie has a rich, thriving community that makes children, education and the arts a top priority. As an educator, I am connected to these students and am personally invested in the development of each and every one of them to become a well rounded individual, and a successful part of their community.” Charlotte Miller, a teacher in Cottage Grove and artist of the “Fingerprints” bench, says “A children’s museum would be a great asset to the Sun Prairie and surrounding communities! Children’s museums offer memorable, immersive learning and offer creative and authentic experiences for children. Sun Prairie is already such a family-oriented community, and a children’s museum would be well utilized and appreciated!”

    Tell us what YOU think!

    The Art in the City bench artists had some amazingly thoughtful words of wisdom. What would you add? Leave us a comment and tell us why you think a children’s museum in Sun Prairie would benefit local children and families!

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Art in the City: From the Artist’s Point of View.The Big Picture.
All comments (1)
  • Diane S Graczyk
    September 7, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Please contact me about possible items for children's museum. Diane Graczyk. Dsgraczyk@uwalumni.com. phone 608 658 3165


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