The Santa Fe Children's Museum has recenlty 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!
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.
"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.~
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 santafechildrensmuseum.org, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!
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.
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 email@example.com.
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!