Posted Parsons Sun: Thursday, January 14, 2016
By Colleen Williamson
Providing children a place to learn through experimentation and problem solving in a safe environment while having fun is what Curious Minds Discover Zone has been doing since it opened its doors in 2012.
Wanting to see how a museum providing hands-on exploration for children would be received in the area, Curious Minds opened in a temporary location at 1810 Main in downtown Parsons. The museum quickly became a hit as word spread. Besides local patrons, families from Pittsburg, Neodesha, Independence and other neighboring towns bring their children to the museum on a regular basis.
Museum director Becky Falke said she has continued to update and improve the exhibits to allow children who visit often to engage in new experiences. Summer camps and special programming were added and have been filled to capacity.
The addition of family memberships was an advantage many patrons opted for, increasing from 31 to 1,057 this past year. Family memberships allow families to visit the museum anytime during regular business hours and provide discounts on special events and camps.
In all, visitors to the museum increased from 4,789 in 2014 to 5,537 in 2015.
Three years of growth and success, with little promotion, supports the need for expansion, which is impossible in the current downtown location. For that reason, the museum board this week is kicking off the Curious Minds Discovery Zone “Expanding Potential” capital campaign.
“We’re calling it that because not only is it expanding our potential, but children can expand their potential,” Falke said.
The nonprofit museum is working to raise $600,000 to construct a new 6,000-square-foot building.
“Ideally, we’re hoping to have all the funds raised within a year, so that by next summer, 2017, we will be able to be in the building,” Falke said. “That would be our intention.”
The future site will be located on Union Avenue, east of Green Country Auto Group. The one acre of land for the location has been donated by the city of Parsons.
Not only will the new building double the size of the museum’s indoor space, but also the new location will provide for a wide variety of outdoor opportunities.
“I’m looking forward most to the outdoor space, where kids can plant gardens and get muddy, go bird watching, and we’re so close to the stream (Tolen Creek) we can do counts, and we can walk to the pond (in Tolen Creek Park) to do stuff there. The walking trail steps off our parking lot,” Falke said. “So we’re very excited about that.”
There will also be a designated birthday party/event room in the new facility to allow groups to enjoy their activities without disruption from other patrons.
Falke said this is an important addition as Curious Minds has became the No. 1 birthday party destination in the area, with more than 1,496 birthday parties scheduled during 2015.
All capital campaign donation amounts are welcome. All gifts of more than $500 will be featured on the Museum Donor Wall, and all donors will be included in museum publications. Donor levels are: Visionary, $100,000 plus; Scholar, $50,000 plus; Gifted, $25,000 plus; Artistic, $10,000 plus; Prodigy, $5,000 plus; Thinker, $1,000 plus; and Muse, $500 plus.
Anyone wanting more information on how to make a tax-deductible donation can visit www.curiousmindz.org, call 778-2657 or email email@example.com.