Greensboro Children’s Museum growing

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — From February 27 through April 7, Guilford County children in elementary school or younger read or had read to them roughly 10,000 books, a feat that generated nearly $20,000 in contributions to the Greensboro Children’s Museum.

And on August 12, the Saturday before the Guilford County Schools open, the museum will host up to 1,000 rising kindergarteners and their parents or caregivers, giving them an opportunity to ask last-minute questions of school principals, nurses and administrators, and even climb aboard a school bus.

The two events reflect expanding efforts by the seven-year-old museum to better serve children and their families, says Tim Goetz, executive director.

Located downtown in a 40,000-square-foot former car dealership donated to it by the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greater Greensboro, the museum attracts 150,000 visitors a year.

It employs nine people full-time and another 20 to 25 part-time, depending on the time of year, and operates with a $1 million annual budget.

Income from programs, admissions and over 2,000 family memberships generate 60 percent of the annual budget, while a combination of annual fundraising, events and support from foundations, businesses and individuals account for the remainder.

The museum also has a $300,000 endowment.

Now, as it prepares for its 10th anniversary in 2009, Goetz says, the museum has ambitious goals for growth, including a capital campaign.

Working with museum designer Jay Paulus of Paulus Design Group in Bath, Maine, the museum is considering “significant enhancements” to its entire exhibit area, creation of an outside exhibit area on its downtown site of nearly three acres, and enhancement of its educational programming, including converting a 4,000-square-foot building on the site to an education center.

The museum also is working with Tom Norwood of Davidson Consulting Group in Davidson to develop a fundraising strategy.

The museum, which raised over $4 million in its initial capital campaign, has not yet set specific goals or timetables for the new campaign but does want to have the new exhibits and education center ready for visitors by its 10th anniversary on May 15, 2009, Goetz says.

By that time, he says, he also wants to see the annual budget grow to $1.5 million, the endowment grow to over $1 million, and attendance to keep growing at a rate of 5 percent to 10 percent a year.

And he wants the museum to work with other children’s museums to boost their presence in the state, “especially making children aware of the quality educational opportunities we provide for young kids,” he says.

The museum, for example, offers school-readiness programs that provide “stimulation, through sight, sound and all the senses, preparing kids to be stronger students as they rise to formal education,” he says.

Read-a-Palooza, the just-ended read-a-thon that encouraged children to read or be read to, counted on participation from schools, day-care centers and individuals, and asked participants to consider donating or raising pennies or dollars for each page or book read.

The reading blitz will culminate May 21 with a carnival at the museum featuring the opening of Arthur’s World, a traveling exhibit based on books by Marc Brown that inspired a PBS series.

“The museum appreciates the people who have supported us,” Goetz says, “and looks forward to continuing to expand its role in the education community throughout Guilford County.”

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