TUCSON GIVING: CHILDREN'S MUSEUM

As attendance grows, center strives to keep pace with better, innovative exhibits for kids

2012-06-03T00:00:00Z As attendance grows, center strives to keep pace with better, innovative exhibits for kidsLoni Nannini Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Valerie Greenhill and her board of directors are determined to make Children's Museum Tucson a place where local children will grow up, and to do so they must ensure that the museum grows with them. The upcoming Father's Day Weekend Golf Classic, the nonprofit's second largest annual fundraiser, aims to further that goal.

"The Children's Museum does a great job of earning revenues through admissions, but for us to continue to innovate and invest in better exhibits is extremely expensive," said Greenhill, a seven-year volunteer and president of the board of directors who has witnessed visitor growth of 33 percent at the museum since 2009.

"The cost per square foot is huge since (exhibits) need to be durable and safe. We have to raise money through fundraisers to make the pace of innovation here sustain itself. We want there to be something interesting and a little different every time families visit."

Greenhill became involved because she wanted to make an investment in the community and believes in the museum's vision of family-based play and learning. She said her children, Dylan, 9, and Sophia, 11, have benefited immensely from frequent visits over the years.

"Their growth has coincided with innovative changes at the museum, and it is wonderful to watch the museum transform year after year to accommodate children of a wider age range and offer so many more hands-on, interactive exhibits," Greenhill said. "Seventy-five percent of the museum has been completely redone in the last three years, so it is a very exciting time."

The newest addition is Investigation Station, completed last month and made possible through a $236,000 grant from Angel Charity for Children Inc. It is the museum's largest exhibit, at 1,800 square feet, and focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics - also known as STEM subjects - targeting children up to age 10.

The exhibit features components including "Bernoulli Blowers," which allow children to experience Bernoulli's Principle with plastic balls; "Power Pump Seats," which gives kids a chance to experiment with pressure; an airwave machine; a sound-wave machine and more.

"Schools are integrating STEM into their academic standards, and this is another way for kids to learn, explore and investigate what they are learning in the classroom in a more visual, creative, hands-on way," said the museum's development director, Hilary Van Alsberg.

The museum will further promote STEM this summer through Science Sundays, which offer $2 admission from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday through Sept. 2. Admission includes regular exhibits plus science-themed activities and weekly guests from places such as the Physics Factory, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Mathnasium and the University of Arizona Optics Department.

Families can also enjoy recently renovated exhibits such as Bodyology, a health and wellness exhibit featuring a farmer's market, juice bar and live orchard; as well as Techtopia, which has digital and technical interactive components.

One of the exhibits being renovated right now is ElectriCity, an energy exhibit that offers information and learning components on a broad range of power sources and features Solar City, with solar-powered race cars.

Other favorites include Build It, a room featuring LEGOs, PVC pipes, shapes and a magnetic ball wall; Wee World, geared for kids ages 4 and younger; the Whistle Stop Train Room; Pet Vet; and an art studio.

"I really believe in the learning that families do together when they are playing and having fun, and no other place in Tucson is focused solely on that for families like the Children's Museum," she said.

If You Go

• What: Eighth annual Father's Day Weekend Golf Classic to benefit the Children's Museum Tucson

• When: June 16 - 6:30 a.m. registration; 7:30 a.m. shotgun start

• Where: Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive

• Cost: $175 per person; $700 per foursome

• Etc.: Festivities include lunch, a raffle, a goodie bag and prizes. All proceeds benefit Children's Museum Tucson educational programs and improvements to interactive exhibits.

• Register: Go to www.childrensmuseumtucson.org or call 792-9985, Ext. 105.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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