Parsons Sun, June 18, 2014
By Colleen Williamson
Children are naturally curious, having an innate desire to learn and discover the world around them through hands-on exploration
To nurture that natural curiosity and encourage children’s love of learning, a group of area adults formed a board and developed a non-profit organization to establish Curious Minds Discovery Zone – a children’s museum providing the opportunity to learn and discover through hands on play.
The museum opened Nov. 17, 2012, at 1810 Main and response has been tremendous, both locally and regionally.
“We have a lot of out-of-town people come and play groups from Cherryvale and Independence that regularly schedule visits. We have lots of birthday parties, and special weekend events we plan, too,” board member Tracy Gilmore said.
“May allowed us to host field trips for a number of area schools. June and July is summer camp month with things ranging from Kitchen Science to Robotics. The ages for the camps range from 4 to 15, depending on the camp. So many exciting things are happening and we are growing. We have added many interactive displays to the museum this year. We try to always keep it fresh to allow kids to keep coming back and enjoying their experience.
“We also have Pinterest parties for adults every couple of months,” she said. “We incorporate a lot of variety, for different ages of people and people with different interests. Our director, Becky Falke, is always coming up with new and exciting ideas to allow us to do that.
“There is one lady had all her grandchildren from Tulsa and Kansas City here over spring break. She told them they were all going to the children’s museum. They were less than excited about it. After visiting the museum, they said they liked it better than the ones in Kansas City and Tulsa. With it being smaller, the could participate in things together and they had a lot of fun. They said they can’t wait to come back,” Gilmore said. “It’s exciting for us to hear those things. We were excited about this product and to hear that being validated by others is very rewarding.”
From January to April, Curious Minds Discovery Zone entertained 1,804 guests.
Support from the community by visiting the museum, sharing ideas, gifting items, and provding financial support is key and is necessary to keep the museum operating.
Expansion of the museum in the future into a larger facility is still part of the board’s long-term plans, but Gilmore said the board wants to ensure the stability of the museum.
“We want to make sure we have the business down and be very fiscally responsible to make sure it is a long-term thing,” she said. We have spoken with a lot of museums throughout the country and we have a pretty good idea of what it will take to run and continue the museum into the future and we think we have the right people in place to see it through.”
Day-to-day operations of the museum are costly.
“The museum is doing well, but it is very expensive to keep replacing broken displays and replace toys. Kids are hard on things.” Gilmore said.
Costs are also encumbered by adding items of interest.
“Our camps are doing well, however we want to continue to grow and offer unique experiences to children in the area, “Gilmore said.
To help the museum continue in its efforts of feeding children’s curious minds, the museum is hosting its second annual fundraiser on Sept. 13.
The “Night of Discovery” fundraiser will be at the Labette Health Express Care bulding this year. Curious Minds will host a served meal, dance, and other activites.
“Last year was our first event and it went over extremely well. We have changed a few things to enhance the experience, such as a more elegant meal,” Gilmore said. “The auction will be themed ‘Experiences’ to go along with the children’s museum mission. As of this date, we have received tickets to the Dr. Phil Show, a KU basketball ball boy experience, carriage rides, hunting trips, Branson vacations, a hot air balloon ride, a fishing trip, an Alaskan vacation and many more. We are close to getting some big vacation trips donated, too.
“If people in the community would wish to donate motel reward points, frequent flyer miles, nights at a vacation home, or any other item, we would welcome the donation. The fundraiser and community support continue to be an integral part of growing the museum. The board and director are working hard to make Curious Minds Discovery Zone a travel destination to be proud of.”
Ticket prices for the fundraiser are $35 each or $600 per table. To order tickets call (620) 778-2839 or (620) 423-7224.
“We are very excited. We knew it would take regional support to keep it going and the more we do, we continue to have people from outside the area coming,” Gilmore said.
To learn more about the children’s museum, its upcoming events and camps, or booking a party visit www.facebook.com/CuriousMindsDiscoveryZone.