About Town: Children's Museum Opens Creative Learning Center

Categories:  Events    Opinion    Community
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 at 6:30 AM
About Town: Children's Museum Opens Creative Learning Center by Rebecca Styn
the Facebook

“When you change a child’s life, you change a family’s, which can change a community, and ultimately the world.”

This is the belief of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Erie. And if we all bought into that trickle-up effect, we as adults may once again start to see through a different set of eyes and help us to not only understand, but possibly rejuvenate our own outlook on life.

Recently, the expERIEnce Children’s Museum, alongside the Ronald McDonald House Charities and several local volunteers and businesses, helped to develop the 17,000-square-foot Ronald McDonald House Creative Learning Center in the lower level of the museum. After months of renovations that began last fall, the doors officially opened Friday, June 8. If you had the opportunity to see the space before, you will be in awe with the transformation. In the main gallery, what were once just plain, white walls are now coated with warm yellows and oranges and adorned with bright pillars throughout the open space. Freestanding tables made from wooden doors feature ambient aura above with track lighting so children can draw, color, and hang out together.

The center includes many new exhibits and activity areas. Collaborative creativity is the theme. Children can step back in time before computers and technology (yes, there was such a time) and can recreate classic theater sound effects. There is an Art Machine exhibit, which offers a 46-inch touchscreen for color mixing and swirling to create a unique work of art that can be emailed directly to friends and family. The piece, which came from England, is only the second one like it in the United States (the first one is in Missouri). In addition, there is a magnetic canvas wall, a literary corner, creative papermaking, and a collaborative weaving wall intended to prompt museum guests to personalize a piece of fabric and add it into the large loom hanging on the wall. After the loom is finished, the many visitors’ individual pieces of fabric will make one larger piece of community art.

According to Tami Netkowicz, the executive director of the expERIEnce Children’s Museum, “It has been proven that art learning cultivates critical thinking and is very strongly associated with higher levels of achievement, not just in school but throughout life. Research tells us that children who are creative and imaginative when they are young tend to retain those qualities when they get into adulthood, so when they get into their professional careers and into the business world they are better problem solvers.”

“What we’re trying to do is build a foundation to help build stronger communities. Sadly, despite the value of creative experience in art education, research shows us that these experiences are becoming fewer and fewer across the country. When we started talking with our friends at the Ronald McDonald house, an opportunity and a partnership was created. Anything we can do to enhance these experiences is very vital to us. And the best part is that when you come back six months and a year from now, the exhibits and activities will have changed so that  when children see it for the first time (again), their creative spark will continue to change as well.”

The expERIEnce Children’s Museum, located at 420 French St., is open Tuesday through Sunday and hours vary. For more information, call 453-3743.

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