Raising funds for accessibility at this iconic Manitoba kids destination

Part 2: Discover what the Children’s Museum offers beyond their famous fun-filled exhibits.

Ask kids or adults of a certain age, what comes to mind when they think of the Children’s Museum, and you’ll likely get an enthusiastic “fun” as the response. What they might not initially realize is the significant depth of learning that occurs during those visits to the iconic Manitoba destination.

Located in Winnipeg at the historic Forks site, the museum offers 12 galleries, as well as learning programs designed to spark creativity and foster learning in a fun, exciting way.

Part one of this story focused on how the museum has worked tirelessly to ensure kids from all backgrounds have access to these unique learning opportunities. Now, let’s take a closer look at the learning experiences that are offered year-round.

Lifelong learning starts here

The museum’s philosophy is centred on fostering early learning as a foundation for lifelong learning.

Learning through play comes naturally to children,” says Children’s Museum Executive Director, Sara Hancheruk. “They explore, discover, problem-solve and test their theories during play. Our mission is to spark kids’ creative learning.”

Children's Museum in Winnipeg
Outside the Children’s Museum at The Forks.

The organization also hosts many classes during the school year. “School programs help children explore concepts they’re learning about in a different environment,” Sara says, adding that the museum strives to keep ‘fun’ central to what they do, while offering new learning opportunities to kids from all over the province.

Children's Museum in Winnipeg
Jaxson Wakefield, 7, and his sister Piper Wakefield, 3 enjoy the Illusion Tunnel slide.

We enjoy making our school programs messy and try to use materials that may not be available in schools, so that we can be a valuable resource in learning and the community,” she says.

What’s up when school’s out?

The Children’s Museum also offers programming during spring and summer breaks.

Day camps help prevent learning loss during spring break and summer holidays. They keep children engaged in creative learning while developing their social circles,” Sara explains.

The day camps are usually weeklong events filled with art, activity, workshops, special guests, field trips and even a water games day. Day campers also get to enjoy the galleries in the mornings before they are open to the public.

Children's Museum in Winnipeg
Art made by visitors at the Pop M’art.

Fun for the whole family

To engage those accompanying the museum’s young visitors, ‘Partners in Play’ cues are deployed throughout the museum to give caregivers a sense of what the interactive exhibits have to offer in terms of learning opportunities.

These prompts let caregivers know the subject, developmental milestone or skill areas a gallery primarily addresses,” Sara says.

Security and comfort levels for the museum’s young visitors are always paramount. Staff are constantly on hand and can provide mobility aids like wheelchairs, noise protection and quiet zones away from the hustle and bustle of the galleries if needed.

“We work to ensure spaces and children are safe and secure 100 per cent of the time,” Sara says. She also adds that they always have extra clothes, diapers, wipes, ear defenders and sunglasses on-hand at their Admissions Desk, as well as child-sized toilets and sinks in their washrooms.

Successful funding campaigns

As a not-for-profit, charitable organization, the Children’s Museum has embarked on fundraising campaigns to support projects that can’t solely be funded by admission fees.

Children's Museum in Winnipeg
Dimitri Kyriakopoulos and his mom Erin McIntyre enjoy the excavator station.

The successful ‘Under Construction’ capital campaign raised over $10 million, allowing the museum to undertake a major overhaul, improving accessibility and infrastructure, adding an arts and exhibition hall and doubling the number of permanent galleries to the current 12 when it re-opened in 2011.

We just launched our first ever Family Night Out: Dress for a Mess event in April 2018, and it sold out,” Sara says. “We’re already looking at expanding our programming to welcome more families to take part in another fun and messy event to raise funds for the museum.”

This past spring’s event featured an ‘Ultimate Slime Tank,’ where guests were able to bid on sending family members to the tank. “Watching someone get slimed at the end of the night was very memorable!” Sara says.

Children's Museum in Winnipeg
Damian Nernberg (left) and Mason Farmer enjoy the Splash Lab.

The event also involved ‘Let’s Talk Science’ teams from the University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg.

Working with ACU

The Children’s Museum has a long relationship with Assiniboine Credit Union. “ACU supported our Free2Play Access Program for years, ensuring kids had access to the Children’s Museum,” Sara says.

During our capital campaign, ACU also provided us with financing options so we could really focus on fundraising for the new galleries. Today, ACU supports our fundraising initiatives and offers options that allow us to maximize the impact of our financial resources.”

Visit part one of this article to learn more about how the Children’s Museum is ensuring their unique learning experiences are accessible to all.

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Jason is a Winnipeg-based journalist and photographer who has been published across Canadian media.

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