GREAT FALLS — The Children’s Museum of Montana in downtown Great Falls needs help to fund its move into a new building. The museum plans to move from its current location near the Civic Center to the former Pacific Steel & Recycling building at 1401 3rd Street NW when the lease on the current building expires in 2023.
The move will give them 46,000 square feet more than their current building. To buy the building and get fully moved in, the museum needs $3.9 million, and a capital campaign is underway. As of Thursday, about $30,000 had been raised.
"Basically, we've just completely outgrown this building now. We have a lot of big ideas coming up, we've got different stuff going on. One thing we talk about quite frequently is our parkour exhibit. That's one thing we started here,” said museum administrative assistant Joslin Knightstep. “In the new museum it'll be almost its entire own wing.”
Several months ago, museum staff explained that a large portion of the building is going to be focused on Montana industries and providing an opportunity for kids and people in our community to see how far we have come and be proud of that.
They will be incorporating a “maker space” which will allow kids of all ages to create different types of ideas whether it is with video, a sound booth, a 3-D printer, software templates, and so on. The museum is also going to add some enhanced education to expand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programming and using augmented reality to help students with taking standardized tests.
Museum director Sherrie Nefff said that students that have fun while learning will be more likely to remember what they learned; she noted, “We want to help raise (their scores) overall, for all of the kids, and the easiest way to do that is by helping them have fun...So that it’s not just ‘Hey, let’s teach you this one thing about science,’ its Let’s teach you as much as you want to know.’”
Neff also says one of the goals they have seen a need for and plan to implement in the new facility is to provide those traveling to Great Falls an opportunity to have a family activity that all ages can enjoy: “Parents who want to go on vacation and go to a new place, they often pick where they take their family by what family fun is available there.”
She hopes that this will not only allow our community to benefit but also those other families that want to travel across and to Montana. Neff also said they plan on keeping their fees about the same for Montana admission, and will still offer daily options as well as their yearly membership.
Along with the new facility there are other ideas organizers are looking at implementing such as a family friendly restaurant, and possibly a drop-in childcare option. Neff says if there is a business or someone who thinks they have a need that the museum would be able to fill that they can contact the museum to see what might be able to take place.
One of the aspects they hope to implement is a share program, which would allow an exhibit to go to any community around Montana to help smaller communities have that same opportunity.
The Children’s Museum will be looking at changing their name when they do move in 2023 to help incorporate the new idea of fun and learning for all ages.
If you’re interested in being part of the team, or are interested in donating, call 406-452-6661 for more information, or click here to visit the website.