By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – “According to the Department of Labor, more than 65 percent of today’s students will grow up having careers that do not exist yet. Today, more than ever, it is crucial to prepare our students to become future-ready and to have the confidence to invent the world they want to live in,” a report from the Purdue University College of Education stated.
“Astoundingly, the majority of adults currently in the workforce (62 percent) report that they weren’t exposed to STEM-related tracks in elementary school.
“For the United States to truly be competitive in STEM fields, we need to build out a pipeline of kids who are interested in pursuing STEM, as early as elementary school.”
That focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is the driving force behind a Green Bay children’s museum.
“The museum actually has been around since 1989. We started as a mobile museum,” said The Children’s Museum of Green Bay Business Development Director Heather Heil
“There was a local group in our community who saw a need of making sure that all children had the right of educational play.
“And as time has rolled forward to today, we are now more aware of how impactful STEM-based play educational opportunities are.
“We need to make sure that we are a spark enlightening that for all children in our community, not just parents who know about play-based education.”
In 1995, the museum moved to the Port Plaza Mall, where it remained until the mall’s closure.
“We then took that time to really make sure we were bringing the best of best exhibits and play to the Green Bay Area and found our home in the downtown area,” Heil explained.
“We outgrew that space and we are now located at 1230 Bay Beach Road.”
Today, the museum operates as a standalone nonprofit that does not receive funding from any government entities, operating on admission fees, fundraisers, grants and donations.
In addition, the museum operates several programs to help all children and their families have access to it.
“So, our ‘Family of Promises’ affords memberships to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play at the Children’s Museum,” Heil said. “We believe that play is the right of all children.
“We do outreach where we actually go and offer programming through grants to the Golden House, the Freedom House, Green Bay public school districts, the YMCA, the YWCA and the Boys and Girls Club.”
The museum also offers discounts to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the PALS program and for those active in FoodShare, WIC, SSDI, Head Start or Foster Care.
“Our ‘Children of Promise’ program allows qualifying families admittance into the museum for $3 per person in the household,” Heil said.
“The Circle of Promise also offers a membership that must be applied for with an application.”
“We’re able to offer these memberships and all of this free programming through grants and donations that people give us, again, as a nonprofit. We need to balance that out as well. But we have such a philanthropic giving community that we’re able to do that but especially around the holiday times. It’s really nice to give an experience to the Children’s Museum of the year membership.”
To donate, visit www.gbchildrensmuseum.org.