Your Town Stevens Point: The growth and development of the Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum
STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - The Central Wisconsin Children’s Museum has been in Your Town Stevens Point for 25 years. Over the years, the museum has utilized feedback from the community and has implemented it strategically.
The Executive Director, Cory Rusch, said the museum has grown to include projects and exhibits that involved the whole family, not just toddlers or ‘young learners.’ Some of its newer exhibits include its STEM Lab where children and families can build things like remote control cars, along with a newer fort-building exhibit where children learn team bonding skills.
“We put a lot of effort into [the STEM Lab], we put a lot of effort into our art room as well. There are a lot of things in there that you wouldn’t really think about, that would be in an art room, but kids come up with amazing things. It’s something that they can do with their parents and with their peers together,” Rusch said.
He said implementing new exhibits and projects takes time, strategy and efficiency.
“We’ve started to add these things very carefully. Because we don’t want to add something that’s just for older learners. We want to add things that older learners can engage in and take younger learners with them through the experience. And that’s been the whole focus of the STEM lab, as well as the art room.”
However, he said being efficient with the little money the museum has received from donors and sponsors is one of the biggest hardships it faces.
“[It’s a] major struggle, we haven’t raised our prices for a very long time... for as long as I can remember. So we are the least expensive, professional museum in the country. So while everybody else is raising their prices we’re not. And, therefore our biggest struggle is finances.”
But, he explained being efficient with the money is nothing new to its leaders.
“We’ve been around a long time. And we are incredibly efficient with donations. We’ve streamlined all our operations. We get by with a few people here and there. We employ... I think we have five employees, including myself. And if we’re just really good at doing a lot with a little because we’re so practiced, and that’s been our biggest struggle is trying to find donors and sponsorship for some of these cool exhibits. Running the museum that efficiently takes a lot of time. Really what we would like is for people to come here and check us out and decide for themselves if they want to invest in us and invest in the community.”
He said the museum, like any other cornerstone institution of society, gives people in the community a place to go that has a plan in place for them at their fingertips.
“They don’t have to plan the day out all the toys are already here and organized. And we also saw that through the pandemic, it’s another socialization place where kids can see other kids. And we learned through the pandemic, that it’s really important for kids. So, now nothing makes us happier than when we see two younger learners that haven’t, haven’t met each other yet come together and play at the museum, meet each other at the museum and build a track or a fort. And, you know, doing those kinds of things together, those small things, they seem, maybe, small to a lot of other people, but to us their major successes.”
The museum staff is constantly thinking about development and the next step closer to expanding childhood development for the community.
“My background is in education. I’m a licensed teacher. And that’s what we’re supposed to do as teachers. Even if we have something good that works in class, we’re always trying to try to tweak it and make it a little bit better. And that’s what we’re doing with the museum. We’re constantly having that reflective process looking at our exhibits and upgrading however we can.”
He said some of the biggest successes the museum has seen are people being happy while they spend time at the museum as well as more adult interaction with children.
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