CHILDREN'S MUSEUM & RESOURCE AND INFORMATION CENTER

VISION STATEMENT

The Children’s Museum and Resource and Information Center empowers families to inspire their children through curiosity and engagement.

MISSION STATEMENT

To develop a state of the art facility that encompasses interactive learning exhibits and activities for children and a robust learning center on how to build brains and enhance early childhood education for all.

OVERVIEW

“Play is the highest form of research” – Attributed to Albert Einstein

A Children’s Museum & Resources and Information Center is a boon to Dona Ana County in every way. Economically, it provides a product with little competition. There are no children’s museums in the United States within 200 miles of Las Cruces. Providing a service that El Paso does not offer, it has the potential to drive tourism and dollars from neighboring Texas, as opposed to the flow of cash that usually pours into Texas from New Mexico. Educationally, a Children’s Museum integrates with a county Early Childhood Education plan aimed at boosting academic success and workforce outcomes for entire generations of Dona Ana County children.

Why would a Children’s Museum be necessary for Dona Ana County? The early childhood facts in the county are grim. 45% of children under the age of five live in poverty – close to half. That equals 6,925 children whose opportunities in life are compromised from the very beginning. Given that 90% of brain development has taken place by the age of 5, we now know that if we wait until kindergarten to invest in early learning opportunities, we have missed a crucial time to build healthy brains in our children. This lost opportunity shows itself in a myriad of ways:

  • Childhood poverty has a profound impact on school readiness:
    • As young as 18 months, vocabulary differences begin to appear between low and high-income families – cite
    • 35-40% of children are not prepared for kindergarten – cite
    • The building blocks required for language later affect reading ability. Students who do not read proficiently by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of high school -cite
  • Children who don’t graduate high school earn millions less over their lifetimes compared to their counterparts with college degrees, draining their communities of economic potential.

Furthermore, we know that strong, nurturing relationships with caregivers help build healthy brains, creating a protective buffer from stress and risk factors such as poverty. Give what we now know about healthy childhood development and building brains, the need for robust early childhood services and programming becomes obvious. Dona Ana County has an opportunity to turn around our education outcomes and provide leadership for the rest of the state in early childhood learning.

The Children’s Museum & Resource and Information Center would provide not only an innovative approach to early learning, but would use fun, hands-on exhibits to serve as a medium in strengthening the relationships between children and their caregivers, furthering the child’s learning. Children who feel safe and cared for, learn better.

The second key component of the Museum is a Resource and Information Center, which would serve as a community connections hub for Dona Ana County families. This crucial piece would help connect families to existing early childhood resources and services, furthering the provision of an integrated and seamless service delivery system. These key resources help bridge the divide between our at-risk families and school readiness.

Finally, the Museum would launch a mobile unit to kick-off the project. The need for a children’s museum extends beyond the city of Las Cruces, which means access is a key consideration. Our response is to provide a mobile unit that will connect to each of the many rural communities that lack access to resources that integrate play and exploration with parents and caregivers. This would further expand the reach of the Resource and Information Center. With an investment of $100,000 from a donor already in hand and exhibit research underway, the mobile unit is set to launch in late 2018.

As a community, we can effect positive change early by preparing young children for school and life, and by preparing parents to ensure that every child has rich learning experiences. We will affect this generation in their formative years and we will affect each subsequent generation thereafter.

This project will consist of two major components:

1.) An interactive, hands-on museum with exhibits that engage both children and their parents/caregivers.

2.) A parent and family center that provides parents/caregivers resources and information on how to effect positive brain development, or “build brains”.

The need for a children’s museum extends well beyond the city of Las Cruces, stretching as far as the boundaries of our county and state. This is why access to the museum is a major consideration in the development of this project. Our response to this consideration is to provide a mobile unit that will connect to each of the many rural communities that lack access to these resources.

This is not just a museum – it is an open and continuous exploration of science, art, and cognition and perception; it is a vast collection of experiences that feed the curiosity of growing minds, and a system of care that can change the future and wellbeing of our community by inviting children and their caregivers to imagine a new and vibrant future.

The museum component will focus on interactive activities and exhibits for children that encourage play and exploration with parents and caregivers. Not just limited to engaging children, the museum will also house exhibits and activities designed to engage people of all ages, especially parents and people who take care of children. Our hope is that the museum will contain over 200 exhibits that cover a broad range of topics including:

  • Brain development
  • Social and emotional health
  • Early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)
  • Art
  • Animals
  • Market/food/cooking
  • Natural sciences
  • Paleontology/Archeology
  • Railroad/trains
  • Outdoor exhibits
  • Elevator mechanics
  • Electricity

Parents, families, and communities play the biggest role in providing the supportive relationships and positive learning experiences that young children need for healthy development. Thus, exhibits will offer enriched learning opportunities for the children, and a combination of parenting education and support services for their families. A burgeoning body of research has begun to explore how developmental periods as early the prenatal stage lay the foundation for healthy development. During the first five years of a child’s life, 90% of the neural foundation is built with over 100 billion neuronal connections made. This critical period of rapid brain development requires stimulating, engaging and enriched learning opportunities that allow children to make decisions about their own thinking and learning. The design of the museum’s exhibits seeks to capitalize on children’s use of play as a model of learning that is open-ended and allows for creative thinking.

The museum will explore and promote brain development by housing exhibits that encourage children to learn through play, the primary component in the museum’s interactive exhibits. Focusing on learning by doing encourages fun educational experiences between children and their parents/caregivers. The museum will also house exhibits that function as educational tools for parents/caregivers to teach them how their own engagement with their children impacts development and the future wellbeing of their children. In addition to the exhibits, the building will house a performance theater, a gift shop, educational program areas, and staff offices.

Most parents in Doña Ana County are not aware of the many services available to their children; nor are they are aware of the differences between available early childhood education programs and services. The Resource and Information Center will serve as a resource and provide information about local and state services

The Resource and Information Center is designed for parents and families to learn about:

  • Maternal health
  • Early Head Start
  • Early Intervention Services
  • Head Start
  • New Mexico Pre-K
  • Home visiting options
  • Quality child care providers
  • And more

Representatives from various agencies will be available onsite so that parents can learn about the multitude of options that are available to them and their children in Doña Ana County. The overall goal of the Resource and Information Center is to create a centralized place for parents’ questions regarding their children’s development and education to be answered.

The Resource and Information Center seeks to provide pathways for early learning, and to support parents of young children by connecting them to early childhood services that focus on development and education. Like the Children’s Museum, the Resource and Information Center will also house exhibits on topics including brain development; social and emotional health; and early literacy and numeracy skills. The Resource and Information Center will help ensure every family and child is supported in early learning and development. It will either provide direct services and physical resources for early childhood education to families, or it will serve as an intermediary in connecting parents and families to services and physical resources for early childhood education outside of the Resource and Information Center.

Resource and Information Center Working Parameters

The Resource and Information Center will serve as support parents and families, and empower parents to positively affect their children’s development by teaching them how to build their children’s brains. The Center’s customer service-oriented staff will be culturally knowledgeable, sensitive, and respectful of all families. Staff will help increase parent understanding of the differences between different early childhood centers and services in the community, and help guide parents and families to programs and centers that provide quality education and/or care for their children. To encourage parents to continue participating in programs that benefit their children’s development, staff will use warm handoffs between agencies for parents. To aid staff in guiding and supporting parents, the Center will create and implement a streamlined intake process.

The Center will foster community support networks by providing a space for parents to come together and participate in early learning activities and socialize, and also by establishing and nourishing relationships between partner organizations to make outreach easier. Engaging and empowering community is central to improving our children’s lives, and the Center will implement a robust volunteer program with incentives, as well as offer work-study positions and internships.

The Mobile Museum is a traveling unit outfitted with several interactive exhibits and opportunities for learning for children and their caregivers. During their visit in the mobile museum, children and families will experience some of the exhibits located in the central museum. This mobile museum will ensure that thousands of children and families with limited transportation will also have access to exhibits and learning opportunities. More importantly, the mobile unit will have information for parents and caregivers about resources, programs, and organizations that exist in Doña Ana County.

In 2016 the committee responsible for the children’s museum and Resource and Information Center developed the following guiding values for the group and specific definitions as they pertain to our region and community.

Bilingual/Multilingual
We value and support a community that uses two or more languages to facilitate learning with children and the community at large.

Affordable
We value the affordability of quality early childhood services and experiences and strive to keep such services and experiences within each person’s means.

Curiosity
We seek to inspire the curiosity of children and their parents through exciting hands-on activities.

Parent Engagement
We are committed to working beside parents as they guide their children to learn and grow.

Inclusive of Community
We value the diverse and vibrant community that is Doña Ana County and wish to include and honor all cultures.