By Gordon Dritschilo
As the Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum gets more and more crowded, the rapidly growing local institution is looking to do more outside its walls.
The museum just received a three-year grant from the Bowse Health trust for programming centered on promoting healthy lifestyles for children.
“The grant allows us to hire a part-time education coordinator and will help us purchase materials we’ll be giving to various community agencies,” Wonderfeet Director Myra Peffer said.
“We’re going to have a small museum on the go that we’re going to take to the (Women Infants and Children program’s) outlying clinics.”
Peffer said the museum and WIC will partner on six events a year in various parts of the county.
“That one will have a nutrition and STEM focus,” she said.
Peffer said the grant will be $43,000 in the first year and less in subsequent years as the organization slowly takes over the salary of the new position. The museum currently has one full-time and three part-time employees along with several volunteers.
The position, for which Peffer said they are interviewing candidates now and hope to have someone in place by mid-January, will help with a variety of programming as the WIC events are far from the only work the museum does off-campus.
Other programs include a class on force and motion at Head Start and a six-week Lego robotics summer camp with the Boys & Girls Club.
“The grant allows us to do a lot of this, but we’re still going to need to look for sponsorships, because we’re giving a lot of stuff away,” she said.
So far this year, $7,000 worth of free and reduced memberships were covered by sponsors such as Green Mountain Power and Mark Foley.
The museum is giving away organization memberships to Eckhardt Family Services and Pediatric Physical Therapy.
“Pediatric Physical Therapy will be doing their physical therapy here with the kids,” Peffer said.
As of the end of November, the museum had logged 12,000 visitors since opening Feb. 8.
“The goal was between 4,000 and 5,000,” Peffer said. “Who knew?”
The museum recently added a railroad exhibit and next up is a reading nook, which will go in the upstairs area, presently roped off.
“There’s a circular area and we already have a rocking chair up there,” Peffer said.
Peffer said she is trying to figure out a planned credit union playset, as well as the “under construction” city hall that was part of the early design. She said she would also like to fit in a marble quarry with removable “marble” blocks and a miniature crane.
“These are all ideas,” she said. “It’s a matter of space and funding.”