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  1. GEORGE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

DISCOVER  •  IMAGINE  •  CREATE

story and photos by Dawn McLain

In southern Utah, there is no shortage of art. As residents, we are surrounded by creative inspiration. Undoubtedly, our diverse cultural landscape has

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been inspired by the area itself. In fact, southern Utah boasts some of the most stunning views in the nation, bringing millions of visitors to our area each year to explore and discover the wonders of life in southern Utah.

It’s only natural then, that we locals want to celebrate our inspirational surroundings and look to cultivate a lifelong love of the arts in our children. The St. George Children’s Museum does just that, and is a great place to bring kids of any age.

I recently sat down with the St. George Children’s Museum’s Executive Director, Marnie Workman to learn more about the programs and exhibits featured at the Dixie Academy’s historic downtown site.

DM: Tell me about the Museum?  

MW: The St. George Children’s Museum inspires children to “Discover, Imagine, and Create.” We do this in a fun way through engaging exhibit offerings, education and art programs, community outreach, and events. Though the museum itself was a decade in the making, it has quickly become a community treasure. We encourage children to connect with their world through role playing with our hands-on exhibits. Exploring and engaging in each exhibit heightens their awareness and perception of the world around them. Research shows that interactions with parents and caregivers in ways that reinforce learning and neurological growth through experiential play impacts learning significantly and positively.

DM: What types of exhibits do you have?

MW: The museum showcases well over 50 interactive exhibits. Adults are drawn in by the children and are found experimenting and examining the exhibits with their kids. This type of interaction increases the development of the bond between these individuals. A level of trust and emotional growth occurs as pockets of world knowledge open and expand. As children reflect on these experiences while in the outside world, these “doing” roles are re-experienced and more fully revealed and understood.

DM: I understand that the museum does not have an admission fee, just a suggested donation request. Is this correct?

MW: It’s true. Unlike most children’s museums, SGCM invites all to enter regardless of their ability to pay an admission fee. Other museums charge between $10 and $15 per entrance. We believe that this prohibits many community members from entry. The SGCM has hosted over 300,000 visitors from every state in the US as well as from every continent with the exception of Antarctica. We attribute our phenomenal success to our outstanding exhibits and standards of maintenance and cleanliness, our wonderful staff, and our donation based entry policy.

img088DM: So, how do you fund the exhibits and programs?

MW: Our major activity has always been the development and creation of our exhibits. We opened and have been sustained by generous donations and grants. The bulk of these donations have come from a single anonymous source. That source of funding is no longer available to us as it has been re-directed to another worthy project. This requires us to find significant new sources of funding to continue our operations.

Aside from the standard platforms such as social media and print advertising, we rely on our standing in the community, word-of-mouth referrals, and professional partnerships. Some of those partnerships are with the Downtown Merchants Group, the St. George Chamber of Commerce, and the Washington County Public Library system. We are also working on our sustainability program called “Flying With Our Dragon, Rufus Grows Up.” The program focuses on business membership and sponsorship.

DM: Who is Rufus?

MW: Rufus is our dragon logo/mascot. We always say that if you haven’t met Rufus yet, we’d love to invite you folks to come on down for a complimentary tour so we can share him with you.

DM: Amazing. I love this idea. What is your most popular exhibit?

MW: One of the most popular exhibit rooms at SGCM is the Grocery Store. Children of all ages can get a shopping cart or basket and fill it up with good things to eat. The youngest guests begin by simply pushing carts and filling them with fruits and vegetables. As the children return to this exhibit or for those a little older, they can select items based on what they would like to eat or prepare if they were grocery shopping in the real world. They can even take their selections to the checkout line for purchase. The children can also “work” at the grocery store. They can stock shelves and keep things organized, they can work at the cash register, and they can be a manager or supervisor. Each child finds his or her own niche in this playful learning

adventure. The best part actually occurs when these same children put on a uniform and completely immerse themselves, their parents or caregivers, and new-found museum friends in the shopping experience.

DM: Do you have new exhibits coming?

MW:  Absolutely. We just finished our newest exhibit, the Prehistoric Room; it’s all about dinosaurs and the kids love it. We are planning to update our existing rooms and exhibit pieces as well. One of our longer term goals is to create another original space. City RAP funds will allow us to continue what we have started and allow us to work toward these goals.

DM:  I can’t wait to visit the Prehistoric Room. That sounds like it may become the new favorite exhibit.

Marnie, thank you so much for your time and all you do in our community. I know that the museum provides a venue – a safe place for people of all ages to make connections with others in their community as they learn about their similarities, differences, roles, and value to our community as a whole. I applaud and appreciate your efforts.

For more information visit www.sgchildrensmuseum.org or call (435) 986-4000

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