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Children’s museum programs slated to begin this summer

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Organizers of the proposed Mountain Top Children’s Museum are still looking for a home, but that doesn’t mean kids enrolled in the program won’t be tracking elk, making mud pies or taking trips into the future this summer.

It’s all part of a series of camps the museum offers at the Kids Castle on Peak 8, said executive director Betty Quigley.

“We knew we couldn’t get exhibits out, but we wanted to start doing things in the community,” Quigley said.

It will be similar to the Hand’s On Children’s Museum in Steamboat Springs, which features construction, space, ranch and farm, kitchen, music and art rooms. The museum, which has occupied its space rent-free for the past year-and-a-half, attracts about 6,000 visitors a year, said board member Mary Jenkins.

The museum, however, closes for the summer Saturday; the building’s owner wants to renovate the space and lease or sell it. In the meantime, the Hand’s On museum board will solicit funds to purchase a permanent home. The board has raised about $200,000 toward the $600,000 they need to buy the building.

“People have seen what the museum’s added to the community,” Jenkins said. “They like the idea of permanency.”

To date, the museum has operated on a $40,000 budget, raised through fund raisers and challenges. But a more realistic budget – to pay a mortgage, and salaries for an executive director, part-time receptionist and half-time program coordinator – will run about $100,000.

Quigley and Laura Pietro, the educational director of the museum in Summit County, had hoped to have a place to house the museum by this spring. Places are available, but money’s not. This summer they will hold fund raisers – the first one is May 18 at Carter Park – to raise awareness and money for the museum.

Once in place, it will feature interactive exhibits, most likely in the afternoons and evenings. Additionally, youth volunteers – 10 years and older – will help with traveling programs, exhibits and planning.

The museum’s mission is to provide informal learning through interactive exhibits and programs that incorporates imaginative play and hands-on experience.

Quigley, who has a background in children and family museums, used to work at the ski area, and immediately saw a need for childrens’ activities.

“Every day, people would ask, “OK, my 3-year-old’s done skiing; now what do we do?'” she said. “Those are the folks that are coming to visit us. And in the community itself, there are play groups, but sometimes you need something outside the house, something educational, but fun.”

A children’s museum filled the niche, Quigley said.

“A children’s museum is all to-do kinds of things,”she said. “Information is presented, but you actually get to have some kind of experience that triggers some learning kinds of things. Some might be historically based, some might be pure scientific-based, some might be social sciences.”

An example is the study of bears. Not only would children study the animal from a scientific point of view, they also might learn about bears and human interaction, ursine habitat and bears’ roles in fairy tales.

In addition to the week-long programs, daily workshops will be offered. They include hour-long teddy bear picnics and mud-pie crafts for 2- and 3-year-olds and two-hour-long nature explorations for the 4- and 5-year-old set. Eight- and 10-year-olds can participate in the various three-hour-long activities including yo-yos, juggling and programs with names like “Something Fishy” and “Gross Me Out.”

Until a museum venue is found, officials at the Breckenridge Ski Resort have offered to let Quigley use the Kids Castle on Peak 8 as a science and art classroom this summer.

“It’s child friendly,” she said. “And the price was right.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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