Looking ahead – Strong attendance

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Pleased with its first two years, the Greensboro Children’s Museum is taking a hard look at its future.

The museum, which attracted 125,000 visitors each year – compared to a first-year goal of 100,000 — is studying its audience and developing an educational master plan to strengthen programming and outreach to the community.

“We’d like the museum to be known as a strong educational facility through programs for both kids and adults,” says Tim Goetz, the museum’s executive director.

Goetz, former interim director and director of exhibits and programs at the Children’s Museum of Arkansas, joined the museum in 1997 to help prepare it for its opening May 15, 1999.

The museum, which raised $4.6 million for its startup, totals 37,000 square feet and focuses on social sciences, with hands-on exhibits designed to engage youngsters.

“We’re letting kids learn about their life and the community they live in by having fun,” says Goetz.

Before designing its exhibits, the museum asked children and teachers what they wanted in the museum. At the top of kids’ wish list, for example, was something about NASCAR, so the museum created an exhibit that features a stock car driven by Kyle Petty that youngsters can climb into and pretend to drive.

The museum also features a police car, fire truck and grocery stores – all of which aim both to entertain and help children learn and develop skills. The store, for example, helps kids develop gross and fine motor skills, and learn about color, sorting and nutrition.

And teachers wanted to see representations of the state, so the museum includes a huge topographical map of North Carolina.

In June, with $10,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and $5,000 from the Tannenbaum-Sternberger Foundation, the museum’s board and staff each held a retreat conducted by White Oak Associates, a Massachusetts consulting firm.

The museum now is creating a strategic planning committee to develop short-term and long-term goals.

Priorities include expanding educational programs and teachers guides; better coordinating programming with education plans at local schools; and strengthening ties with local schools.

“We’re new and we are still plotting our course,” says Bob Hudson, president of the museum’s board and chief financial officer of Pace Communications.

Salomon Smith Barney has given the museum $5,000 to underwrite free admissions on the third Friday night of each month from through September.

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