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Friday, 15 July 2016 11:33

Museum’s New Look Upgrades and New Exhibits Promise to Wow

By | News
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Children’s Museum at Saratoga at 69 Caroline Street will be closed for renovations beginning Monday, July 18, for most of the summer, but according to Executive Director Michelle Smith, the results will be “phenomenal.” The $500,000 project will bring a facelift to the exterior and vestibule, as well as provide new programming space inside, including new exhibits such as the Sensory Integration Room and the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club STEM Room. In celebration, the museum is holding an Ice Cream Social on Friday, July 15 at 1 p.m. featuring Stewart’s Shops ice cream, activities, and a ground breaking. Museum admission is free immediately following. The new STEM exhibit will teach children about circuits and technology in a hands-on, entertaining way by building robots with Cubelets. According to the manufacturer, Cubelets are robot blocks that can be combined to build thousands of different robots. No wires, no wrong way to build; just snap the blocks together and discover what robot behaviors emerge, introducing children to robotics, coding, and design thinking. Another new exhibit involves anatomy and technology. Sponsored by the Saratoga Springs Lions Club, “Decibel Annie” is a manikin with an earpiece that allows visitors to connect a cell phone or other device to Annie, play music, and measure how loud the music is in decibels. The exhibit will provide information on safety levels and impact to the human ear. The renovations will also help increase existing programming, such as for the Making Connections program for children on the autism spectrum. “It’s been open once a month for free to children on the autism spectrum and their families,” said Smith. “We’ve seen over a thousand people come through our door for this program alone.” The museum has received some feedback that the Thursday evening free program is a challenge for families during the school year, so the museum plans to open up a similar program on Sunday mornings. The Sensory Integration Room exhibit is the creation of a daily-accessible exhibit space for children and families on the autism spectrum. Smith said, “It will allow children every single day to engage in a lot of what we do in Making Connections. It will engage all of the senses. What the experts say is that children on the spectrum either overreact or don’t react at all to the senses. A room like this – a nonjudgmental, total exploration room where there is no right or wrong – builds self esteem so they aren’t afraid to try things.” The museum’s program room will also be designed for additional programming on weekends. The museum is open primarily during school hours, and weekend time had been dedicated to private children’s events. “Birthday parties are a huge source of revenue,” said Smith, “the backbone of keeping the financial stability of the museum. Now can do both, the parties and meeting the programming needs for school age children.” The museum is seeking additional exhibit sponsorships, such as bringing an interactive map in the facility’s classroom under sponsor support. “We’d also like to bring in some international language,” said Smith. “We could use a technology piece in the diner. A child in the diner with a touch screen pad can look at an apple, touch it, and say the word in Italian or Chinese or Spanish. They can see the apple and relate, being in the diner. It’s all through the senses; we all learn through the senses. Then we ask them to create a healthy plate, bringing nutrition into it.” Smith says the educational focus of the museum exhibits is all about exposure. Hands-on discovery helps children learn STEM and other teachings through their own curiosity, taking complex subjects and simplifying them so the children can be captivated by it and want to explore more. “We had time to explore when I was in school,” said Smith. “A sponge doesn’t absorb when it is as hard a as a rock; sometimes the water even repels if we give them knowledge they aren’t ready to handle. What makes a child able to absorb is the ability to experience it, to give them time to be self-guided at their own pace. Today’s schools don’t have time to do that, so we can be a resource to the schools and parents. It’s all about us being able to serve the community in a better way but also in a more elaborate way.” The capital campaign has been led by Smith and the museum’s board of directors, who are listed on the website. The museum is seeking donations toward the campaign, as well as sponsors for additional new exhibits. To inquire about sponsorships, call Michelle Smith at 518-584-5540. As of June 12, the Capital Campaign Donors, with the heartfelt thanks of The Children’s Museum at Saratoga, include: Adirondack Trust Company; Advantage Press; AYCO; Bank of America Foundation; Charles R. Wood Foundation; J.M. McDonald Foundation; Live Oak Foundation; Pioneer Bank; River Farm America Foundation; Saratoga Foundation; Susan and Bill Dake Foundation; The Windhover Foundation; Catseye USA, LLC; Saratoga Springs Rotary; Saratoga Springs Lions Club; M&T Bank; Global Foundries Malta Foundation; Saratoga Casino and Raceway; William Gundry Broughton Foundation; Bender Scientific Fund; D.A. Collins; Bonacio Construction; and several private individual donors. The museum will be holding “Pop-Up Park Programs” free and open to the public at various times during the renovations, which will be announced on the website and social media. For more information about the museum and its programs, visit CMSSNY.org or follow them at facebook.com/ChildrensMuseumAtSaratoga.
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