Continuing to provide the community with new, hands-on activities and volunteering opportunities, the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum is planning an expansion one year after its opening.
Through the use of funding from private donations from companies like Charter Communications and Isabella Bank, the Discovery Museum was able to finish construction on Dec. 28, 2012. Since then the museum has seen a steady increase in memberships and would like to expand in the near future.
Sam Burkett, program director and a CMU graduate, said the museum has tried to focus on adding new exhibits instead of changing old ones. One of the ideas for an outdoor exhibit is a rocket launch pad, others range from water tables to wind tunnels.
“We are currently raising money to expand outdoors this summer,” Burkett said. “Hopefully, this will bring more people in during the warmer months.”
Although the museum is completely indoors, the second phase of the museums funding will go toward outdoor exhibits. It walks a fine line between keeping children’s favorite activities, while trying to stay interesting for members and returning customers.
“Some kids don’t like the small changes because they seek familiarity,” Burkett said.
New exhibits come from a combination of innovative ideas from board members and exhibits that have worked well in other children’s museums. Board Member Heather Frisch went to other museums and worked with professional designers to bring the Discovery Museum to life.
“We were lucky because other museum directors let us do a walk through,” Frisch said. ” We wanted to observe children in the exhibits to see what works and what doesn’t.”
In addition to an adult board of directors, the museum has a youth advisory board of children ages 7-17, who create ideas for new exhibits and how to improve old ones.
“Our two signature exhibits right now were created by our youth advisory board,” Frisch said. “Many of our ideas for the future come from them and I hope they aren’t too old to enjoy it once it’s built.”
Nate Lockwood, executive director of the museum, is also on the board of directors. Along with being involved in the creative aspects of the museum, he also oversees day-to-day operations.
“The first six months were tough because we were trying to figure out how to operate,” Lockwood said. “We didn’t have anything to go off of and had to learn as we went along.”
Specifically, Lockwood said there were problems the museum ran into such as figuring out how many people to hire or water spilling over the waterworks exhibit.
The museum would not be possible without a strong group of members and the generous donations from families and companies in the community. Because the museum receives no government funding, it relies on membership fees for daily expenses and donations for new exhibits.
“We are very lucky to have a supportive group of members,” Burkett said. “We have had around 700 members signed up since we opened.”
Burkett said there are a lot of opportunities for CMU students to volunteer. Although the museum has worked closely with CMU teachers and students in the past, it is not the most popular option for students trying to complete their 60 hours of service.
“We’re still fairly new and we’re trying to get the word out to Central (Michigan) that we are a good option for student volunteers,” Burkett said.
CMU junior Bridget Holbrook took the opportunity to help the museum in order to complete 32 hours of volunteering for her child development major.
“The museum is a great place to get hours,“ Holbrook said. “I really like being around kids so it didn’t even feel like volunteering.”