An outdoor classroom, STEM studio and refurbished music and drama area are just a few of the new attractions at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum.
With frequently updated exhibits, an active staff and board of directors that includes a NASA research scientist and tons of fun events throughout the year, the Kearney Area Children’s Museum offers one of the best places around for kids to be kids!
One of the museum’s most popular events, BOO!seum, will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26, at the Alia Arram Memorial Building, 5827 4th Ave. in Kearney. More than 20 businesses and organizations will provide educational stations and games, including Halloween crafts, “yucky” buckets and science experiments. The Kearney Volunteer Fire Department, Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental, various University of Nebraska at Kearney clubs and CHI Good Samaritan therapy dogs are a few of the vendors planning to attend.
The event typically attracts more than 500 people.
“It’s great to see all the families come together dressed up in their Halloween costumes,” said Jennifer Beck, the museum’s director of community engagement and BOO!seum event planner.
In 2016, the museum added a new “tween” haunted house to the event. It will be back by popular demand this year.
BOO!seum admission is $6 per member child (17 and younger)/$3 per member adult and $10 non-member child and $5 non-member adult. Children one and younger are free. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the museum or on the website or can be purchased at the door. A meal (honey BBQ wings from Buffalo Wild Wings or pizza, and dessert) can also be purchased for an additional $3 per person.
Other events throughout the year include the popular Roadway Heroes event that allows kids to climb aboard all types of vehicles, Breakfast with Santa in December, Kids Winter Gala in January, EGG-stravaganza in March or April, Happy Birthday KACM in honor of Alia Arram in May and a Storybook Walk in conjunction with Crane River Theater in June.
In addition, the museum plans monthly events such as Make-It and Take-It Classes, Kids Night Out at the Museum, Family Fun Nights, Morning Mingle for members and summer and school-day-out camps. A new popular event this year was the 1st Annual Lego Home-Building Competition that let kids learn about the building process starting with getting approved for a building permit.
Besides all the great events, the museum itself offers innovative and educational exhibits for kids of all ages. The Kids Fit area with a trampoline and climbing structure is one of the most popular play zones for kids. The train play areas include a toddler zone and model train exhibit from Dobytown Kiwanis. The new Kid’s STEM Studio opened in September and is designed to entertain and educate older kids who come to the museum. It includes Snap Circuits Jr., the Ozobot robot, Osmo and an iPad that kids can check out. The construction/Lego/architecture area is currently being revamped and will feature modern building technology for kids to explore.
NASA Board Member & Encouraging Future Scientists
Melissa Scott-Pandorf, Ph.D., works remotely as a research scientist in the neuroscience laboratory on contract with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She grew up in central Nebraska and worked in Houston prior to relocating to Kearney. Growing up, she enjoyed math and science and now enjoys volunteering at the museum to give Nebraska kids opportunities to learn in those areas.
“My experience in Houston made me realize that the kids in schools in Houston regularly see and meet NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts, and therefore many of the children view a career at NASA as a possibility for them,” Melissa said. “When I moved back to Nebraska, it was apparent that most kids here, due to lack of exposure, didn’t consider opportunities like that for themselves. I want the kids in our community to have more exposure to sciences and engineering opportunities, and the children’s museum seemed like a good avenue for me to contribute.”
She has three children, ages 8, 6 and 3, with one on the way this month. Her kids love the variety that the museum offers.
“I am the chair of the exhibits committee, and we are constantly trying to improve and rotate our exhibits to capture the interests and imaginations of all children,” Melissa said. “For me, that means thinking out of the box when it comes to artistic things, but all are so important to the development of a child.”
Melissa was instrumental in bringing the new Kid’s STEM Studio to the KACM.
“Robotics and learning to program at an early age is often cost-prohibitive for a lot of families,” she said. “So when I was thinking about the STEM studio, I wanted to bring in things that make STEM particularly fun that kids WANT to do after school and on the weekends but also challenges their minds. Robotics, electrical circuits and interactive programming games are usually very popular tools in STEM education.”
Membership to the Kearney Area Children’s Museum is just $90 for an entire year for a family.
The museum’s executive director Traci Winscot said members come from Kearney and across southwest Nebraska, and some members even drive from Kansas. She said the museum offers a Sharing & Caring Scholarship membership program so that all may join and participate regardless of financial situation.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and be able to afford a membership at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum,” Winscot said. “It’s just a great resource for anyone to use and have that strong family bonding time and hands-on learning.”
For more information about the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, visit the website at www.kearneychildrensmuseum.org.