The Santa Fe Children's Museum has been featured in multiple local publications and by media. We are grateful for all of the community coverage we receive and the opportunity to tell the Museum's story!

Children's museum acquires exhibits from defunct Playbox Discovery Center

October 18, 2021   |   By Teya Vitu

Out of nowhere, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum was able to complete a five-year exhibition “refresh” pretty much overnight.

After Hannah Hausman became executive director in March, she let the museum’s board know the museum needed a “refresh.”

“A lot of our exhibits are there from when the museum opened 36 years ago,” Hausman said.

Then in early September, she got a call from the Playbox Discovery Center in Albuquerque, which was closing down after the indoor play center had opened in 2019, only to face off with the pandemic.

“They said, ‘We want the children’s museum to adopt our exhibits,’ ” Hausman said. “Talk about fate.”

The museum closed Wednesday to finish installing the Playbox exhibits and reopened Thursday with the new exhibits in place.

They include a Fire and Rescue Firehouse; a Discovery Animal Clinic; Uncle Conor’s Construction Zone; a Discovery Market; an early childhood play structure called CedarWorks; and an interactive light display called Litezilla.

She is inviting businesses in the specific professions to buy naming rights for the exhibits.

The David Montoya family opened the Playbox Discovery Center on Dec. 7, 2019, and three months later had to shut down for COVID-19, not to reopen until July this year. Indoor mask mandates in a setting for unvaccinated children 8 and younger combined to lead the Montoyas to close Playbox Discovery Center on Sept. 26.

“It was not the greatest timing,” Montoya said. “We had 2½ really good months. We had to turn away people at the door. We had a huge customer base from Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Española. “[After reopening], we struggled with staffing and people now wanting to come out.”

Montoya wanted the exhibits to be displayed elsewhere, but no Albuquerque entities were interested.

“We had taken our kids to the [Santa Fe] Children’s Museum four years ago,” Montoya said. “I just picked up the phone and called Hannah.“

Playbox Discovery Center was a mini-children’s museum with just 2,600 square feet of space. The Santa Fe Children’s Museum has 7,000 square feet of display space within an 8,440-square-foot building.

Hausman had specifically wanted to refresh early childhood offerings up to age 5, and she said the Playbox exhibits target that age group.

They add up to about 80 percent of the exhibition refresh Hausman wanted to do over the next five years. She said the museum paid the Montoya family $30,000 in donor funds for the equipment valued at more than $100,000 that could have cost more than $200,000 for the museum to build itself.

“We used funds we raised for capital improvements,” she said. “It’s a miniature town, a miniature center.”

Hausman was able to create space for the Playbox village by shifting around other exhibits and removing others. Exhibits were already spaced out more than usual as a COVID-19 precaution. The nano and STEM-based exhibits and magnet table were removed to make way for Playbox, she said.

Along with exhibits, Hausman wants to assemble a 10-year plan to refurbish the 1930s structure. The roof was repaired during the 2020 pandemic closure.

“This was a perfect time to do [Playbox] in a time when you can’t just say, ‘Let’s do a master plan,’ ” she said.




October 2021  | STEAM News from Santa Fe Children's Museum

A perfect partnership comes into PLAY! As Playbox Discovery Center in Albuquerque closes, Santa Fe Children’s Museum steps in to adopt new equipment and exhibits. Starting in mid October, you will be able to see some exciting new STEAM-based exhibits and experiences at the Children’s Museum. Those include: 

The Fire and Rescue firehouse is ready for little firefighters to throw on a fire suit and put out some fires!

Take care of sick hamsters and groom puppies in the Discovery Animal Clinic

Uncle Conor’s Construction Zone offers lots of open-ended play, lay bricks on our brick-laying wall, and explore the plumbing ball drop. 

Grab a shopping cart and shop for your favorite treats in the Discovery Market! 

Play on a beautiful custom-designed CedarWorks play structure designed especially for Playbox! Equipped two slides, a chalkboard, steering wheel, telescope, and tunnels to crawl through!

Create your own illuminated patterns using a 7 ft Litezilla. This interactive light display encourages creativity, planning, and fun!



New Mexico's Outdoor Recreation Division celebrates successful pilot of paid internship program

September 28, 2021 | By Megan Martin  –  Data Reporter, Albuquerque Business First

New Mexico's Outdoor Recreation Division recently announced it successfully completed a pilot program that awarded three high school students with paid summer internships at various local businesses. 

The X3 Internship Program paired high school students with local organizations to gain meaningful work experience while also earning a monthly stipend. According to a news release, this was New Mexico’s first paid outdoor industry internship pilot program.

The program is sponsored by the Outdoor Recreation Division and run by Albuquerque-based nonprofit Future Focused Education. According to the nonproft, students in the program put in a total of 423 hours with employers including Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, River Source and Santa Fe Children’s Museum.

“The ‘X’ in our X3 Internship Program stands for ‘explore, experience, and expand,’” said Mike May, director of workforce learning at Future Focused Education. “It’s so gratifying to see that vision coming to life for young people in the outdoor sector in New Mexico.”

River Source Director Rich Schrader said the internship program wasn't just beneficial for interns, but also helped solve a staffing challenge while sparking a future interest in water conservation.

“We found that the partners the internships are lined up with are local entities that are short staffed and need things done," he said. "We can do projects with a cohort of kids and give them experience while getting important work done. That kind of partnership can be really important for cities dealing with drought, stormwater drought and education around water conservation.

“It's making a big impact on the youth in terms of how they feel, like a spark being lit up and that they can make a difference when it comes to protecting water and climate change. “

Hannah Hauseman, executive director for the Santa Fe Children's Museum, echoed similar sentiments.

"During his time with us, Gabriel learned new skills centered around early childhood and the importance of nature-based play. He worked alongside our teachers to deliver Covid safe camps for children and helped to facilitate reservation-only visits with families in our acre-plus space, The Backyard," said Hauseman. "We are extremely grateful to the Outdoor Recreation Department and the Future Focused Education X3 Internship Program for bringing this opportunity to the Children's Museum, and for opening doors for future education and career opportunities for New Mexico's youth."

According to the news release, the Outdoor Recreation Division contributed $13,500 towards the program, which helped employers, support FFE in putting infrastructure in place and subsidize the intern stipends. The program will continue this fall with new students and an additional $14,100 in funding from the Outdoor Recreation Division.

“[The Outdoor Recreation Division] is committed to ensuring all New Mexicans gain from the public health, environmental and economic benefits of sustainable outdoor recreation,” said Axie Navas, director of the Outdoor Recreation Division. “Fundamentally, that means connecting our young people with family-sustaining, healthy, fulfilling careers in New Mexico. That is the vision behind this internship developed by FFE, which is committed to bringing opportunities for the best education to students who need it the most.”




12 Exhibitions Not To Miss in New Mexico this Fall

September 13, 2021   |   By Paul Joseph



Santa Fe Children's Museum to Reopen

August 11, 2021   |   By Robert Nott

The way Hannah Hausman and Caitlin Brodsky were cavorting about the grass at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum on Tuesday afternoon, you would have thought they were a few kids waiting for the place to reopen after a year and a half of closure.

And in a way, they were. Hausman, director of the 36-year-old institution, and Brodsky, chairwoman of the museum’s board of directors, were celebrating the fact the facility reopens to museum members Wednesday and to the general public Aug. 18.

Norma Flores and Asis Gonzalez, both of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, move Tuesday the tank of Cornelius the corn snake. Santa Fe Children’s Museum is poised to reopen to the public Aug. 18th. (Photo by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican)

Looking over the inviting sand pit, interactive displays and organic gardens awaiting the attention of the kiddos, Brodsky said she was developing goosebumps.

“I have no doubt the kids are going to return,” she said as staff members busied themselves with setting up socially distanced exhibits, play and learning spaces and checking in with the museum’s reptiles to see if they are ready for visitors.

Nearby, New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps volunteer Sarah Haghi, who helps young kids learn to garden at the museum, said having the energy of the children will “bring it alive.”

Much beloved by parents and children — a combination of playground, learning space and interactive museum — the excitement at the museum was palpable. That was true even for its new lizard, Fafnir, whose eyes lit up as he watched the preparations play out from the safety of a staff member’s hand.

And no wonder. The coronavirus shut down a lot of options for parents wanting their children to learn and grow and connect. Most switched to distance learning modes to do schoolwork.

Brodsky, who came to the museum as a kid and who now has two children who visit it regularly, said those families are still wrestling with “a loss of connection.”

“COVID wiped that out,” she added. The museum, she said, can help restore a sense of attachment.

Nicole Ault said she can’t wait to bring her 6-year-old son Jackson back. He was one of about 600 children from ages 3 to 8 who took part in a summer camp program outdoors at the museum.

She said museum leaders were “cautious and diligent with safety practices,” such as mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing. That, she said, helped bring “a level of comfort in bringing him back” next week.

“It’s a place he has grown up in,” she said.

It’s also a place where kids learned scientific concepts while playing with magnets, creating huge bubbles and tinkering with a kinetic water fountain, said Leona Hillary, the museum’s education director.

When it comes to attractions, some of old favorites may be gone — the dress-up costume area, the face painting station — in the name of protection.

On the other hand, there’s a fresh garden, new murals and Fafnir to entertain visitors.

Masks will remain mandatory, even outdoors, Hausman said. Hand-sanitizing stations are now set up around the museum, too. The facility is not planning to require patrons to provide a proof of vaccination or constant testing. For the time being, most activities will be held outside.

But with the virus again on the move, Hausman said she is aware the museum may have to shut down again for safety reasons if things don’t get better.

“If the variant infection numbers go up, we will close and reopen again when we can,” she said.

The virus did not stop the museum from running the summer camp, offering virtual field tours and providing garden-grown food for hungry families and Grab and Grow kits to children.

Still, the operation had to be cut back and employees were laid off. Before the virus, the museum employed more than 20 people, Hausman said. Now there are fewer than 10. And the museum will only be open four days a week; before COVID-19, it was open every day.

Gaby Quezada, front, and Sarah Haghi, with the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, harvest vegetables from the facility’s garden Tuesday.
Photos by Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican)

The museum hit a rocky financial spot nearly a decade ago, announcing it needed $200,000 to stay afloat. Over time, donors came forth to patch up the funding gap, but only after the museum cut some staff and temporarily closed.

Hausman said an aggressive fundraising campaign, coupled with successful grant requests for federal, state and county money, have put the museum in a place where it can plan an elaborate outdoor renovation.

She said in 2020 more than $200,000 was raised from foundations, grants and private sources.

“If there was a grant available, I applied for it,” she said.

This autumn, the museum will begin a phased-in project to renovate its outdoor area, adding 28 new exhibits, a music performance space and a “hill play” area, plus a new outdoor classroom.

“There’s a special charm about this museum,” Brodsky said. “There’s a sense of entering this magic environment when you walk through the doors, whether you are six or 60.”




Children's Museum is improving access for kids with disabilities

December 14, 2019   |   By Andy Winnegar

I hadn’t been to the Santa Fe Children’s Museum in over 20 years, when my kids would spend hours there exploring and playing.

I recently walked through the museum with Susan Lynn, the executive director, and staff members Leona Hillary and Hector Solis to learn about its efforts to serve children with disabilities and to recommend improvements.

“The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is based on a simple idea: Children learn by doing, and we want to make sure that every child has the same opportunities to be involved,” Lynn said. “We want ideas on how to improve our accessibility to better serve all children regardless of their disability.”

As I entered the main lobby, the energy and noise of children busily at play surrounded me.

“This is our busiest season of the year,” Lynn said.

From mid-November to the end of the year, the museum staff is focused on enhancing each visitor’s experience and preparing for an upcoming winter break camp.

The facility was inviting: bright and full of light. I especially enjoyed the wide, winding paths that carry visitors past exhibits, an outdoor island and an adobe playhouse.

Hillary, who has worked as a special- education teacher, said the staff has worked with the University of New Mexico to increase sensory-sensitive practices, such as offering dim lighting and quiet areas, which are more inviting for children with autism.

Overall, I was impressed with the facility’s accessibility. 

Most of the museum appeared to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act that were in effect when the facility was last renovated. But it will need to consider access for both children and adults when planning future renovations — using newer accessibility standards.

The Governor’s Commission on Disability offers free assistance on accessibility guidelines for anyone planning new construction and alterations.

During our walk-through, we identified some possible improvements, such as modifying the curb ramps at the accessible parking spaces.

The museum had a wide accessible route to the building’s entrance from the relatively level accessible parking spaces — a rarity in hilly Santa Fe.

Removing a couple of potential hazards along the route, such as overhanging tree branches, and relocating an entrance light were easy fixes, said Solis, the facility manager.

The front door is not required by the ADA to be automated, but a power-assisted door would reduce barriers for individuals using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Other possible building improvements both inside and outside included widening some walkways, adding additional handrails, using movable and adjustable height displays and opening up crowded displays areas so children using wheelchairs can reach the model railroading controls and participate in other activities.

We also discussed ways of increasing access for children and adults who are blind by using audio descriptive displays, a tactile exhibit map and Braille signage.

During classroom activities, kids who are deaf may benefit from having a sign language interpreter.

Having available technology like FM systems, in which sound is transmitted wirelessly from the speaker to an individual who is hard of hearing, also would increase access.

I suggested working with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the New Mexico Deaf School.

In a follow-up email, Lynn said, “We have already made some of the minor modifications you suggested.”

Because the state owns the building, she said, officials will be asking the Legislature to provide funding for bigger renovations.

“We were thrilled with your feedback about what a good job we’re doing, and eager to continue to expand and improve access for children of all abilities to learn and play,” Lynn said.

Andy Winnegar has spent his career in rehabilitation and is based in Santa Fe as a training associate for the Southwest ADA Center. He can be reached at



Santa Fe Children's Museum reopens after a year and a half

August 8, 2021  |   By Kai Porter

SANTA, F.E. - The Santa Fe Children's Museum is about to reopen Wednesday, August 18, after the pandemic forced it to close for a year and a half.

The museum offers interactive exhibits both indoor and outdoors, including a community garden to the general public.

"We are that whole childhood development, so we are that first introduction to the arts and the humanities, culture and life and experience" Hannah Hausman, executive director at the Santa Fe Children's Museum.

Hausman said a lot will be the same, but COVID-19 safe precautions such as checking temperatures upon entrance to the building. Masks will also be required for all guest ages two and up.

"We also have amended a lot of our exhibits, some tried and true, that you may have adored before, might not be on the floor, but then others will, and so we will work with our educators and our team to also be cleaning, and we're CDC complaint and working through all of that,” she said. 

When the museum faced laying off staff, donors stepped up.

"We're a beloved gem in the community, and so our donors really stepped up. Once they did that, we were able to fund programs that we, everyone loves this word 'pivot', we did pivot, and we started to provide to kids in our community who otherwise wouldn't be receiving services such as ‘grab n go’ kits to homes in rural and tribal areas of New Mexico," said Hausman. 

During its year and a half closure, the non-profit museum also offered programs like virtual field trips and a summer camp for more than 300 kids.

 "We felt it was important to serve kids this summer who really needed socialization and play, it had been a really tough year for a lot of them," said Hausman. "We're here to stay.”

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Adapting to Change

March 7, 2021 |   By Isabella Alives/ JOURNAL STAFF WRITER 

While in-person learning has been finicky since the start of COVID-19, it’s impacted more than just schools.

The Santa Fe Children’s Museum had to adapt to virtual field trips for kids and learn to interact with the community in different ways. During this time, the museum is also changing leadership. Former Executive Director Susan Lynn led the museum for three years before retiring March 4. She said serving the museum has been one of the greatest joys in her life. 

Hannah Hausman will take over as the museum’s acting executive director and Caitlin Bodelson Brodsky is stepping in as the museum’s board president. As the two mothers started their new roles, both cited their children as inspiration.

Caitlin Bodelson Brodsky, left, is president of the board for the Santa Fe Children’s Museum and Hannah Hausman is the new acting executive director. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“Hannah and I both have 5-year-olds, and we both grew up here, and so we’re moms doing this,” Brodsky said. “Which I love because we get another dimension of seeing our guests, and being able to be the voice of the mom, or family, that comes to the museum.” Hausman has been working at children’s museums for over 20 years and said now, as a mother, it’s interesting to see how her own child reacts to play. She said the children’s museum primarily interacts with and teaches kids through play.

Sign of the times: An adobe structure with a hand sanitizer at Santa Fe Children’s Museum.
(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Children’s museums have traditionally been hands-on with their exhibits, she said, but now some kids interact more with video games. For example, her 5-year-old son is into the game Minecraft, so Hausman takes those experiences to work.

Brodsky said she appreciates the diversity at the museum because her 5-year-old might interact with things differently than Hausman’s, which brings a new perspective to the museum.

Sharon Woods, board president emeritus, said having a children’s museum in a town of 80,000 is almost unheard of. Despite this, the museum is able to persist because of the overwhelming community support it enjoys.

“I brought my kids, who are now grown, there and now I bring my grandkids there,” Woods said. “And here we have this second generation bringing their children there, and it’s really the love and support of the community that has sustained us.”

As Hausman takes over leadership during COVID-19, she said children’s museums are learning to operate within a new environment of play – and trying to do so safety. She said she’s hoping to open the museum’s garden by reservation only and to do COVID-safe camps once the weather starts getting nice again. Opening the museum for regular hours probably won’t happen until the pandemic subsides.

                            Elsa Deshmukh, 10, from Shanghai, China, here visiting her grandfather, makes large bubbles at the Museum before COVID-19.   (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)                                                                                                                    

Since the pandemic began, the museum has been offering grab-and-go kits for families without internet access. The bilingual kits include lessons, directions and materials for families to learn and play together. The set of kits includes a STEM kit, an art kit, a garden kit and an early childhood education kit.

As of late February, the museum was ready to distribute 6,471 kits to families, including kids at homeless shelters, the Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center, the Railyard Park Conservancy and other places.

Tomato plants waiting to be planted in the gardens at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“The online life is just where we are now in our world,” Brodsky said. “The coolest part is that we can offer a little piece of the museum in a bunch of homes, around the country really, because anybody can access our content since it’s virtual.”

In addition, the museum started offering virtual field trips in March 2020, within weeks of school closures due to COVID-19. The museum has served 5,851 teachers and students across 308 schools in the state.

It has also helped the community in other ways since the pandemic began. The museum’s garden is usually used for cooking classes and harvesting experiences for kids, but, in March 2020, the museum knew it wouldn’t be able to do that.

Deja Thomas holds a corn snake while kids pet it at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum before the museum was closed due to COVID-19.
(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Instead, museum staff harvested the garden themselves and were able to donate 1,000 pounds of fresh produce to area homeless shelters in Santa Fe. Hausman said the Children’s Museum plans on doing the same thing again this year.

“There are a lot of kids that don’t have the opportunities that my kids have,” Brodsky said. “I wanted to make sure that I could be involved in a place that can offer that to the community and make that available.”



New Mexico Highlands University and Santa Fe Children’s Museum team up to bring bright rebranded
Grab and Go Kits to children and families

June 10th, 2021   |   Submitted by Hannah Hausman

        New Grab-and-Go kits provide students with limited network access with opportunities for hands-on STEM learning.         
 Sam Gallegos, a student at New Mexico Highlands University, led the student team helping design the kits.        

(Santa Fe, NM) - The Santa Fe Children’s Museum (SFCM) is thrilled to announce a line of newly designed Grab and Go Kits designed by students from New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts & Technology Department. Created for New Mexico children and families without access to the internet, and as a way to serve our community during these unprecedented times, these kits provide hands-on STEM and art-based activities for the whole family to enjoy, at home.

Using the kit themes, Paper Rivers, Rain Jar, and Solar System String, visual communications students from the Department of Media Arts and Technology designed new, creative brand packaging, and curriculum materials for the Grab and Go Kit Program. Advanced Design Practices course instructor Mariah Fox Hausman said, “Sam Gallegos led the student team and played an important role in developing the logo mark, while Krislyn Padilla pitched some fun ideas for the ‘Solar System String’ lesson. This project was challenging, and I’m proud of the students’ hard work. The reward of seeing their designs reach communities in need throughout the state is not only priceless but a valuable educational experience.”

“I am so grateful for the Highlands partnership and so happy with the work of the students. It hit home on our mission of discovering the joy of learning, play, and community. We are very fortunate to be able to work with such an amazing pool of local talent.” —Leona Hillary, Director of Education at SFCM

With donor support, and since March 2020, the Children’s Museum has delivered 7,000+ complimentary kits to children and families across the State of New Mexico. Kits have been distributed with the help of partners including:

Keres Children’s Learning Center, Cochiti Pueblo

Mariano Elementary, Gallup

Northern Youth Project, Abiquiu

Railyard Park Conservancy, Santa Fe

Community Educators Network, Santa Fe

City of Santa Fe Homeless Shelter: Midtown Campus, Santa Fe

Espanola Public Schools, Homebound Services, Espanola

Gerard's House, Santa Fe

Santa Fe Public Libraries, All Locations

New Mexico Autism Society

Rio Arriba Independent Libraries, Rio Arriba County

Rio Arriba County Health Department, Rio Arriba County

Community Art Closet, Santa Fe Place Mall

Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center serving families from

Riberia, Questa, Taos, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe.

This coming year, the Children’s Museum anticipates distributing 20,000 Grab-and-Go Kits to rural and Tribal communities throughout the State of NM.

About Department of Media Arts & Technology New Mexico Highlands University
Our mission is to cultivate a homegrown talent pool of multimedia specialists capable of working with cultural content and committed to serving their communities. Year-round, New Mexico Highlands University Media Arts & Technology places students from diverse populations into cultural institutions, like museums and libraries, where they use skills learned in our degree program to enhance information presentation and accessibility.

About Santa Fe Children’s Museum
Celebrating its 36 year, the Santa Fe Children's Museum is a nonprofit institution that helps children discover the joy of learning, play, and community through extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities. Though temporarily closed to the public, Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers an exciting lineup of programming including Virtual Field Trips, Outdoor Garden Visits, and Grab-and-Go Kits distributed to rural communities.


Elementary: Virtual and Beyond

Santa Fe Children’s Museum shifts gears to serve the community during the pandemic

Fall 2020 Issue     September • October • November

By Susan Lynn and Hannah Hausman

The pandemic has challenged everyone, and the staff at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum has been digging deep to support children and their families. Founded 35 years ago, the museum continues its mission of  discovering the joys of learning, play and community. 

Over the past few months, we’ve turned up our creativity to find new ways to reach the kids of northern New Mexico and continue to spark their curiosity. We expect to open our doors and provide our same quality programming as soon as it’s safe to do so. 

In the meantime, however, the museum has launched virtual field trips, which deliver STEM educational programing and culturally diverse humanities learning to all schoolchildren. We’re also distributing grab-and-go kits to underserved families to help ensure that they don’t fall behind in their education. 

Our schools have been doing an amazing job in delivering remote learning during this time of closure, but many kids will inevitably miss out on breadth and depth of education, especially those in rural and Tribal communities across New Mexico.

Virtual field trips

Stargazer, our portable planetarium, has taken innovative STEM learning to 22,739 kids since it launched in February 2018. The program, which presented bilingual star shows to children at their schools, has been grounded due to the novel coronavirus. We transformed the Stargazer curricula in just a few weeks into these virtual field trips.  First, lesson plans were quickly developed to assist teachers who were learning their way around the virtual classroom. Next, slide shows were created to provide an outline for the presentation, together with internet links for further explorations. 

More than 50 New Mexico teachers took advantage of this free offering, inviting our educators to join their remote learning portals, where the Children’s Museum presented live, interactive bilingual science shows while nearly 800 kids watched from home. We continue to offer these Virtual Field Trips to teachers in other states where school is still in session, to partner organizations for summer camp and for virtual gatherings and parties for private groups. In the fall, we’ll provide this content virtually if remote learning continues, or in classrooms if school resumes.

“Fun in Space” and “Plants and Animals” were developed for each grade (K-6), incorporating STEM Ready state science standards for that age.  Culturally and Linguistically Responsive threads are woven in, to anchor learning for kids with questions that relate concepts in the child’s experience, such as “Did you know that Spaceport America is right here in New Mexico?” All are presented in English, Spanish, or bilingually, according to the teacher’s guidance. 

The museum continues to seek financial support for this program and to develop two additional science shows per grade level — “Geology” and “Weather” — so we can offer teachers dynamic STEM lessons across the science curricula for all grades. We would also like to explore extending this concept to support literacy and the humanities. With this flexible, standards-based curricula, Children’s Museum educators will be prepared to support New Mexico schoolchildren in the coming years, whether in the classroom or virtually at home. As the world and the future of education evolves, we are confident this model will serve thousands of children and families who are going to need our support now more than ever.

Virtual field trips, covid-safe summer camps and Victory Garden kits help kids' curiosity grow.

Grab-and-go kits

"Access for All" has long been a central tenet for the Santa Fe Children’s Museum, and we’re concerned that not all children in northern New Mexico have access to the internet and our virtual field trips. To provide hands-on learning for all kids, we’ve been developing a series of grab-and-go kits, which include lessons, directions, and materials in a single package, so families can learn and play together. 

Partnerships, both established and new, have assisted in the free distribution of these kits. Victory Garden kits have been developed with curriculum from New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group and seed packets from Lowe’s. Distribution partners Railyard Park Conservancy, Alas de Agua Art Collective, Communities in Schools, Northern Youth Project, and Santa Fe Indian Center have helped give nearly 600 kits to rural communities in northern New Mexico, indigenous families in urban areas, and Southside students. Many of the kits also included an art component contributed by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. In the coming weeks, we will disseminate 500 “Space Science” kits a day, for a total of 2500 kits through the Community Educators Network and the City of Santa Fe Summer Youth and Teen Program. 

The Children’s Museum is prepared to support the kids of New Mexico through this crisis and beyond. Sending best wishes for you to stay healthy and well.

~Susan Lynn is the executive director and Hannah Hausman is the senior director of development and communications at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum.~



Open Play

The surprising ways Santa Fe Children’s Museum offers fun for everyone 

Fall 2019 Issue     September • October • November

By Kathryn Lopez & Executive Director Susan Lynn

If you’ve lived in Santa Fe since 1985 or later, you’re probably well aware of the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. You can easily spot it on Old Pecos Trail, you’ve most likely visited at least a time or two, and you know all about what it offers — or at least you think you do!

      The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is not just a place for young children to go in and color for a few hours. Sure, there are plenty of art supplies in the Make ‘N’ Take crafting area, but this museum provides an enriching experience for fun-filled days (and sometimes nights) for all ages. Among the Children’s Museum’s many diverse offerings, you might find some that are new even to long-time visitors, as well as some old favorites. Here are some highlights.

This is no ‘little’ playland

       With more than a football field–sized space to explore (yes, the museum spans nearly 1.5 acres) there’s plenty of room for adventure, inside and outside. Indoors, there are exhibits and activities designed to spark kids’ creative play in the arts, science and humanities. Children can play dress-up or “cook” in the play kitchen, blow giant bubbles or play with trains, paint their faces or dabble in the water stations. There’s a special enclosed space just for smaller children, too. Outdoors, the museum’s “backyard” is a wonder in itself, with gardens full of vegetables, fruit trees, even spinach and peppermint that can be picked and eaten on the spot. New Mexico’s flavors are evident in the bed full of green chile peppers, tabasco and other fiesta-friendly foods that definitely have a “kick” to them. There is even a traditional horno for grilling the occasional hot dog and baking our state’s official cookie, the biscochito. You want a treehouse? Yep, we have that as well!

A place where everyone can play

     To provide an environment where all children and families can interact and connect, the museum aims to be accessible, physically and financially. Here are some of the ways we’re working to assure that everyone can enjoy what the museum offers:

Thursdays Are Yours: The museum extends its hours every Thursday and offers free admission for children 17 and under from 4 to 6:30 p.m., to encourage families to come visit after work and school.

Financial assistance and discounts: Discounts are available every day for EBT recipients, teachers, military and first responders. Partnerships with several community service organizations help us provide complementary admission and free annual memberships. If you think you might qualify, just ask at the front desk.

Hablamos Español: The museum has staff on-site who are fluent in Spanish.

Sensory sensitivities: For visitors with autism and sensory sensitivities, the museum offers support and accommodations including an alternative entrance and a sensory-friendly toolkit with a visual schedule, hats, noise-reducing headphones or earplugs, sunglasses, rubber gloves and timers. Once a month, Sensory Friendly Sundays offer mornings with low lighting and special activities in a quieter, more relaxed environment.

• Hearing and visual challenges: Facilitators provide options for assisted play, as well as scented toys and Braille books.

Special events — ours and yours

    Did you know the museum accommodates after-hours birthday parties and even a Night at the Museum? Birthday parties do not have to be within the museum’s standard operating hours; with ample notice, the staff will cover your event any time, any day of the week. And yes, you can actually have a slumber party at the museum, where your group can bring sleeping bags and turn the museum into its very own private “campsite”! (Speaking of camp, the museum offers not just a summer camp for children, but spring break and winter break camps as well, with limited scholarships available.

     The museum also offers theme nights each month, with special guests and unique exhibits (check the events calendar at, and the Tumbleweeds calendar). The monthly Parent’s Night Out is a treat for both parents and kids. Drop off your child from 5:30 to 9 p.m. for $25 and enjoy your own evening out.

Not just for wee ones

     Many parents start bringing their children to the museum as babies or toddlers, but they soon find the museum experience grows as their children do. All museum exhibits and special activities are designed to accommodate all ages. Science Saturdays, for example, weekly from 1 to 3 p.m., provide basic and advanced experiments designed to stimulate kid and adult minds alike.  All our regular programs — Seeds & Sprouts, where children dig and plant in the Community Garden; Fine Art Friday, with resident and visting artists; and the Santa Fe Model Railroad Club’s “All Abooooooard” Model Train Program on Saturdays — as well as special events provide hands-on learning and fun adaptable to all ages. Science Saturdays, Fine Art Friday and STEM-based camps provide learning opportunities adaptable to all ages. 

      And as for those wee ones, the museum opens an hour early once a week for Wee Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., for toddler-focused explorations including a craft activity and storytime especially for them. There’s also a private snack room, open at all times, that offers a quiet “BYOF” (bring your own food) space for napping, reading, eating and private nursing, if preferred.

New worlds to discover

      Every museum visitor can be transported into space on Saturdays and Sundays with bilingual English/Spanish programs in the the Stargazer Portable Planetarium, free with admission. The Stargazer also travels to schools to provide innovative STEM education right in the classroom. These programs are free to all Title I schools, so if your child hasn’t experienced them, ask their teacher to call the museum and sign up.

     Even the gift shop attempts to offer something for everyone, with everything from little toy animals for less than a dollar to science projects in a box, that let you take a bit of the museum’s magic home with you.

     You might be surprised to discover that the little museum just up Old Pecos Trail from the Plaza offers so much — but that’s just what The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is about: surprise and discovery! Whether you’re a new visitor or a long-timer, the Children’s Museum is a home away from home. From the moment you enter and hear the familiar kids’ tunes, with the multi-colored scarves flowing from the wind tunnel, programs and activities to suit children of all ages and abilities, you know this place is ready for you. It might have a few more Legos than you have at home, but with the laughter and freedom of play that the environment produces, it feels like your living room — except that someone else does the tidy-up!

       The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is located at 1050 Old Pecos Trail. It’s open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m; Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for children 1 and older and $7.50 for adults. Annual memberships range from $85 to $175. For more information, visit santafechildrensmuseum. org, call (505) 989-8359 or email



2021 Wee Wonder Virtual Play Program

A digital multi-sensory adventure!
Ages 3 – 6

SFCM’s Virtual Play Program happens each week featuring virtual story times + themed Grab-and-Go Kit full of projects, supplies, and ideas to do at home!

STRUCTURE of SFCM’s Virtual Play Program:

Two Interactive Story Times will be offered online each week, live on Zoom, to enhance your child’s learning! Led by our experienced educators, each Story Time will feature a new story, songs, movement activities, and some guided play with show’n tell with your virtual classmates.

Our weekly Grab-and-Go Kits include project instructions in English & Spanish and materials to complete 2 hands-on art projects and 1 science/STEM project with your wee one at home. Each Kit also contains a sensory play item (like play-doh, slime, or moldable sand), several themed coloring pages, and ideas for more fun & easy home-based projects!

SCHEDULE of SFCM”s Virtual Play Program:

Mondays – Kit pickups (see locations and times below)
Tuesday & Thursday Live Virtual Programming

$25 for Two Interactive Story Times + Kit | **Discount for Museum Members**
~ Scholarships Available! ~

(Pick your story time)

9 am – 9:45 am: English

10 am – 10:45 am: Spanish


Every week is NEW – join at any time!

Week of Jan. 18th – 21st:  Choo! Choo! It’s Train Time
Calling all Conductors! Make a Shape Train, carry cargo with cartons, and get on track with train experiments!

~ Pick up kit on Monday, Jan. 18th ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Jan. 19th & 21st)

Week of Jan. 25th – 28th: Time to Fly! Airplanes & Helicopters
Let your imagination soar with sky painting, paper airplanes and copter making!

~ Pickup kit on Monday, Jan. 25th ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Jan. 26th & 28th)

Week of Feb. 1st – 4th: Furry Friend Fun! All About Pets
Make the best of “ruff” times by painting with paws, growing your own chia pet and learning more about your favorite animal friends!

~ Pick up kit on Monday, Feb. 1st ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Feb. 2nd & 4th)

Week of Feb. 8th – 11th:  I Heart You, Valentine!
Let’s celebrate all that “wee” love! Craft paper heart people, design a LOVEly necklace, and discover love in a bottle!

~ Pick up kit on Monday, Feb.8th ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Feb. 9th & 11th)

Week of Feb. 15th – 18th: Firefighting Superheroes! 
Holy smokes! Become a firefighter in a costume you craft, climb to new heights through STEM projects, and save the day at story time!

~ Pickup kit on Monday, Feb.15th ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Feb. 16th & 18th)

Week of Feb. 22nd – 25th: Community Helpers to the Rescue!
Explore who cares in our community! Fix boo boos with band-aids like a nurse, use fingerprint science like a police officer, and stamp a surprise like a postal worker!

~Pick up kit on Monday, Feb. 22nd ~
Story Times on Tuesday & Thursday (Feb. 23rd & 25th)


Choose when/where you’d like to pick up your Grab-and-Go Activity Kit each Monday!

9 am – 10 am at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum

9 am – 10 am at the Southside Public Library

5 pm – 6 pm at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum

5 pm – 6 pm at the Southside Public Library

**Alternative arrangements may be made if none of the pickup times are possible**

Program Refund Policy:
Due to the nature of this program, refunds are unavailable unless the story time is canceled by Museum staff. The registration fee will be used as a donation during this time.

If finances are an issue: Apply for a Wee Wonders Program Scholarship

If you are experiencing challenges due to COVID-19 in maintaining safe and secure housing, nutritional food, reliable utilities and transportation and access to health insurance, resources may be available at or

Families depend on the generosity of community donors and partners to help their child(ren) attend our COVID-safe camps and programs. Help to ensure all children are able to experience the adventures we offer

Contribute to our scholarship fund

Laurie Kornely, Museum Early Childhood Educator

Santa Fe Children's Museum Gets Creative with Fundraising and Holds Strong During Pandemic

August 1st, 2020   |  By MK Mendoza

Susan Lynn, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Children's Museum joins Wake Up Call's MK Mendoza to say the museum is still going strong thanks to so much community support, creative problem solving and a little unwitting pre-preparation before the unexpected pandemic. 



Northcentral Retail

The Santa Fe Children's Museum NEW! Online Gift Shop offers a wide variety of toys, games, stuffed animals, books…and so much more! With our weekday curbside pickup you can find a birthday, special occasion, or a just because gift at your convenience! We now offer a special assortment of standard and deluxe themed Play Packages for kids of all ages. ALL PACKAGES ARE FULL OF FUN AND LEARNING! Help the Santa Fe Children's Museum now and in the future by shopping online today!

The Re-Opening

Santa Fe Museums brace to reopen amid COVID-19 pandemic, and we couldn't be happier

September 8th, 2020   |   By Alex De Vore

In the early weeks of the pandemic, there was a small part of me that said, "Hey, man, this is actually kind of a good chance to rest up a little bit." Don't get me wrong—I was terrified, people I knew absolutely died from the virus and I still can't believe I'm lucky enough to have retained my job. And yet, that little part of me remained, telling me things like "Your life isn't going to change that much." 

After the novelty of working in pajama pants wore off, however, the first thing that struck me on a deeply emotional level (y'know, outside of the aforementioned deaths) was not being in museums and galleries all the time. Turns out I love art, and talking to the people who make it, curate it, hang it, philosophize about it, etc. is a major part of my mental well-being (and ask anyone—I need all the help I can get).

And so I waited. For weeks. And months. I kept thinking we'd be back in the museums soon. Nope. And it started to hurt. But then, places like the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art started creating virtual exhibits (huge shoutout to Winoka Yepa, Diné, over there, whose digital recreation of the museum's Indigenous Futurisms show inside the ArtSteps app led the way for other institutions to jump into the virtual sphere) and other spots like the New Mexico Museum of Art started curating shows on Instagram (shoutout to curator Jana Gottshalk, among others, for making the @newmexicoartmuseum account extra worth following). The Museum of International Folk Art upped its downloadable resources and even offered youths free art kits and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian hosted virtual conversations with artists.

Then, last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced museums could finally reopen—albeit at 25% capacity based on fire marshal restrictions, and all seemed like it would be well again. Our state COVID-19 numbers are shrinking, (most) people are happily wearing masks to protect each other; it's time.

For El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the reopening is a no-brainer. Much of the living history museum exists outdoors, and in the waning weeks of summer, those looking to get out of the house need look no further.

"We're such a vast property," says Director of Development Jackie Camborde. "You can come in, take a lovely walk, walk along the acequia, picnic on the grounds—just get out in nature. We're putting it in all our ads: 200 acres of safe social distancing!"

Golondrinas reopens Wednesday, Sept. 9, and Camborde says ticketing will be broken up into sessions that run just under three hours. Maintenance staff is set to deep clean any surfaces between those sessions and no interior sections of the museum will open just yet.

The Santa Fe Children's Museum is embracing a similar outdoor deal with its garden and outdoor play space open on weekends for 90-minute sessions.

"We all need time to play in nature, and the Children's Museum garden provides just that," Executive Director Susan Lynn tells SFR. "We have moved some of our favorite exhibits outdoors, and you can join us to make giant bubbles, engineer a new ball run, dig for bones in the sandpit, pick veggies in the community garden and much more."

The Children's Museum is also opening enrollment for Wee Adventures and Maker Monday workshops this week, and it continues to offer virtual field trips through its website.

Downtown, museum reopenings are chugging along as well. At the New Mexico Museum of Art, Head of Curatorial Affairs Merry Scully says an exact reopening date isn't known just yet, but staff is training up in safety measures while exhibits that opened shortly before the pandemic, such as the local-centric Alcoves with Todd Ryan White, Debra Baxter and Amy Ellingson among others, will be extended. Additionally, she says, the museum's newer online offerings will continue.

"What's happened is it's really sped up our need to extend what's going into the digital sphere, whether that's interviews with artists or virtual presentations on the collection, we really hit the ground running as soon as we were quarantined," Scully adds. "And something positive might come out of this in terms of people rethinking what we do and how we spend time."

Just up the street at MoCNA, Director Patsy Phillips also says the institution plans to continue with its virtual offerings, noting that a professional videographer will now document future shows so more people can get a closer look.

"If you have an exhibition and you don't have a catalogue, when it closes, that's basically it," Phillips explains, noting that potential visitors only missed a couple things during the pandemic. "Charlene Teters' Way of Sorrows…we had to close that show because we had a contract with artists, but that show is -online; the BFA exhibition, always a graduation show, is closed…that's online."

Phillips also says upcoming exhibits, such as a globe-encompassing piece focused on uranium mining's impact on Indigenous people and communities, as well as a possible look into African American Indigenous peoples, are on the docket, and though MoCNA tends to book a couple years in advance (you know—like all museums everywhere), she expects COVID-19 will work its way into future shows in one form or another. The museum's parent institution, for example (the Institute for American Indian Arts) hosts regular student shows in the space—and when it comes to punk rock statements based in politics, nothing beats young folks' work.

Phillips says the museum will work around any in-person capacity issues by selling timed tickets and having touch-free hand sanitizer stations around its galleries. The timed ticketing thing is being investigated up on Museum Hill at the Museum of International Folk Art, and Executive Director Khritaan Villela tells SFR he's excited to get back to hosting in-house guests.

"Of course, we're nervous, and we're doing our best to safeguard our staff," Villela says, "but our public has really appreciated that we're still here and continue to create content for them to enjoy."

He can say that again. MoIFA churned out some excellent bilingual activities for kids during the pandemic—and its Yokai exhibit on Japanese demon lore that opened a few months before the world shut down is easily one of the coolest offerings Santa Fe has seen…ever.

And that's just the tip of it all. The Wheelwright should be up and running soon, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum tells SFR it'll open on Sept. 25, SITE Santa Fe has the new show DISPLACED and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture will surely reopen alongside its state-run contemporaries—and the Harrel House Bug Museum is even back at it with altered hours. (What? It's definitely a museum.)

This is all to say that we might try to better appreciate our arts. No, museums aren't perfect and no, I don't expect everyone to get as pumped over devotional pieces on loan from the British Museum as I do (that show at the New Mexico Museum of Art has been extended to the end of the month according to Merry Scully). I do, however, think we're lucky to have so many places staffed by so many dedicated people. Not bad at all.



Youth of Today

Santa Fe Children's Museum is totally still there for your kids

April 22nd, 2020   |   By Alex De Vore

The Santa Fe Children's Museum has certainly faced its fair share of difficulties over the years—it even shut down briefly in 2016. But as one of few such organizations in the state, the museum has managed to weather crises before, and now offers a rather robust suite of programming options, many of which are still underway.

According to Hannah Hausman, the museum's senior director of development and communication, conditions have been good, both in terms of funding and attendance. And though the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for patrons to visit in real life, there's still a lot going on, both online and at the museum's sprawling garden on Old Pecos Trail.

"I think that our board and staff have been really strong in terms of fundraising and all of those pieces, and that hasn't stopped," Hausman says. "We're open, we're operational virtually, we're providing all these things to the community and our financials are great; we're in the black. It's all great [but] this hit and we had all these exciting things on the horizon, and now we're on pause a bit."

Just because you can't take your kids for a visit, however, doesn't mean there aren't still plenty of ways to engage. 

"One of the things we realized is, there's one program in particular that can't stop, and that's Seeds and Sprouts. Mother nature doesn't wait," says Leona Hillary, the museum's director of education. "Our garden is in full swing and we've got production with over 26 raised beds."

Hillary says staff are caring for seedlings started by regular students and visitors, tending to existing garden maintenance and continuing the museum's social media presence on Facebook and Instagram so even kids who can't pop by to see how their plants are faring can still get progress reports.

"In the past, kids would harvest and take home," she says. "We now have double the produce than we had before, and we're doing a grab-and-go initiative so kids can grow their own food in their own gardens [at home]."

This means a small, no-contact booth at the Santa Fe Farmers Market (which has been deemed essential during the stay-at-home order) on Saturdays. Each seed kit comes with four packages of seeds plus information and suggestions for gardening activities. The Children's Museum has also partnered with the Northern Youth Project to get more complicated gardening items to teens in rural areas who might want more to do than plopping a few seeds in the ground.

"And we're working on how people can request a victory garden kit through the public schools," Hillary adds.

Victory Gardens are a WWII holdover wherein governments urged citizens to plant gardens to fill out their own food supplies while rationing—and to just plain have something to do.

Outside of the gardening milieu, the museum is offering virtual field trips to places unexpected.

"We invested in a high-powered computer and a couple really cool programs, and what they can do in an online classroom is deliver a field trip to space," Hillary says. "A lot of the classrooms are doing reading and math, and everything else, they're on their own—this is an opportunity to address real science curriculum. It gives you a real scientist right there in your home."

Hillary says the museum is beginning to contact teachers this week about how they can get involved. With two educators on hand to facilitate the field trips, she estimates they could accommodate up to 10 trips a day. In the beginning, they'll focus on K-8 students, but if the program proves popular, it could expand.

"And they can customize it," she says. "They're learning about volcanoes? Climate? We can customize our content to the classroom. It's tailored so teachers can know they're signing up for something that's helping them—and it can be delivered in English and Spanish."

Additionally, the museum is gathering videos of community members reading stories. The free service already boasts mayor Alan Webber and, according to Hausman, is open to any Santa Feans who wish to submit—Santa Femous or not. Stories, she expects, will start rolling out on the website on Wednesdays.

Even cooler? Hausman says administrators are in the early talks for developing a satellite location of the Children's Museum on the traditionally underserved Southside of town.

"How great would that be when everything is lifted?" she says excitedly.

Further details are unavailable, but what can you do to support in the meantime? Well, buying a membership ($85-$175) wouldn't hurt for starters. Hasuman and Hillary understand that its benefits aren't as jam-packed as in times of health, but if the concern is an expiration date, they're taking that into consideration and extending them gratis—you won't lose any months to the stay-at-home order. The museum is still accepting volunteer applications as well. You can also simply donate if you're so inclined. As long as they have even a little funding, they'll keep serving the youths. Just know they're not alone.

"There's a movement of over 350 [children's museums] across the nation who've banded together to keep delivering our missions," Hausman explains.



Santa Fe Children’s Museum asks for help naming new lizard


Posted: Apr 24, 2020  |   By: KRQE Staff

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Santa Fe Children’s Museum is asking for your help in naming its newest member. People submitted name ideas for the new spiny-tailed lizard last week but now the museum is asking for your help in voting on the top picks online. If a name entry wins, those that submitted will be put in a drawing for the family membership prize. Voting ends on Wednesday, April 29.


Santa Fe Children's Museum

Seeds & Sprouts

December 6, 2019   |   By Susan Lynn

Santa Fe, New Mexico: The four walls of the Santa Fe Children's Museum contain wonders for kids to explore, and the fun doesn't end there. The Museum's "backyard" is nature at its most family-friendly. Children are invited to climb a tree, visit the adobe playhouse, or discover dinosaur bones buried in the sandpit. Many visitors return every Thursday from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm, for the popular Seeds and Sprouts program.

Educator Leona Hillary leads a multi-sensory adventure, with activities ranging from digging for worms in a vermiculture compost bin, to planting and harvesting the community garden. Year-around kids can read a story under the shade of a tree, identify creatures with magnifying glasses and microscopes, or create nature-based projects such as a mini water catchment system from cardboard and straws.

The Museum garden boasts over an acre of fruit and nut trees, raised vegetable and herb beds, flowers and pollinator plants, and is set up as a model of sustainable southwest gardening. Animals are studied through native visitors like rabbits, insects, and birds, as well as museum pets, such as Bisquick the pancake turtle, who forages his own fresh salad from the "pizza garden".

Seeds and Sprouts ensures that New Mexico's flavor is showcased. The Museum's expert gardner, Hector Solis, introduces kids to a specialty bed full of green chile peppers, heirloom tomatoes and other fiesta-friendly foods. Children sample these regional vegetables and get a small spicy taste of Santa Fe as they take a turn in front of a traditional "horno" oven to bake tortilla chips and biscochitos . . . our state's "official" cookie!

Whether they are learning about the differences between pears and peaches, enjoying the taste of carrots they pulled with their own hands, or witnessing the life cycle of a butterfly... kids visiting the Santa Fe Children's Museum's Seeds and Sprouts leave with a sense of connection to the wonder and beauty of nature!