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For hands-on-education, MN’s children’s museums could secure annual funding

Feet on the floor. Hands on the desk. Sit up straight.

Many kids feel stifled by traditional classrooms.

Children’s museums across the state feature interactive exhibits to engage kids in the process of learning, such as the butterfly house at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.

Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL-Mankato) said children’s museums are a great educational resource for communities. He enjoys taking his own children to his local museum.

Sponsored by Frederick, HF1543 would appropriate $3 million in the next biennium from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund for children’s museum grants.

The House Legacy Finance Committee laid it over Wednesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

Per the bill, 10 locations would receive $150,000 per year:

  • The Works Museum in Bloomington;
  • WonderTrek Children’s Museum in Brainerd-Baxter;
  • Children’s Discovery Center in Breckenridge;
  • Duluth Children’s Museum;
  • Otter Cove Children’s Museum in Fergus Falls;
  • Children’s Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids;
  • Wheel and Cog Children’s Museum in Hutchinson;
  • Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato;
  • Great River Children's Museum in St. Cloud; and
  • The Village Children’s Museum in Willmar.

Funding could produce new exhibit development, enhance existing exhibits, or fund special programs and access initiatives, such as school group visits.

“When the Legacy funding started years ago, there were three such museums and today there are 13,” said Louise Dickmeyer, CEO of the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.

The Greater Minnesota Children’s Museum Coalition, which Dickmeyer spoke on behalf of, includes all museums outlined in the bill. Together, the coalition serves over 500,000 guests each year with visitors from every county in Minnesota.

Due to income barriers, Rep. Kaohly Vang Her (DFL-St. Paul) didn’t always have access to children’s museums as a child, so she believes investing in these museums is important.

The Headwaters Science Museum in Bemidji has not signed onto the coalition. A pair of larger museums, SPARK Children’s Museum of Rochester and Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, have requested separate appropriations.

Coalition members are seeking to move to an annual appropriation for all children’s museums and eliminate the competitive grant process.

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