Fairbanks Children’s Museum finds temporary home at the Museum of the North

Julie Herrmann/Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 21, 2013

A school-themed bead maze at the Children's Museum located in the UAF Museum of the North. October 18. David Spindler/ Sun Star

A school-themed bead maze at the Children’s Museum located in the UAF Museum of the North. October 18. David Spindler/ Sun Star

The Fairbanks Children’s Museum has a temporary home in the UAF Museum of the North. Until April 30, the Children’s Museum will be housed in a room just past the front desk of the Museum of the North.

Before moving there, the Children’s Museum had operated as a museum without walls. It held events once a month at various places around Fairbanks including high school gyms, Friends Church, the Pioneer Park Civic Center and the Student Recreation Center.

“We’d have 500 to 700 people in four hours,” said Brenda Riley, the Executive Director of the Fairbanks Children’s Museum.  “This is something the Fairbanks community really wants to see and come to.”

Riley, along with other Fairbanks moms, began thinking about starting a children’s museum back in 2006.  They researched children’s museums and did outreach for the next few years before filing for non-profit status in 2011 and beginning the museum without walls events.

In January, the Museum of the North invited the Children’s Museum to set up a mini-museum inside the museum for the fall, winter and spring.  The point of the museum, according to the Children’s Museum website, is to spark curiosity and life-long learning.  The room is full of bright colors and fun exhibits.

An air maze, over 10 feet high, covers part of one wall.  Children feed balls and handkerchiefs into the beginning of a set of a tubes.  Air flows through the tubes pushing the balls and handkerchiefs along.  The flow can be altered by flipping paddles to send the balls down different routes.

Another area holds pieces of pipe and cut out blocks of wood so children can build their own mazes to send balls rolling down.

Another wall holds a large white light covered in black plastic punched with hundreds of holes.  Translucent colored rods can be wedged into the holes to create patterns, pictures and words, which become almost neon when the light shines through.

There are drums, a play shopping market, books and magnet boards.

“It’s great to have all these cool things for them to play with,” said Jen Gunderson, who brings her daughter, Ada, to the museum about twice a week.  “Especially in the winter when it’s cold and dark.”

There are frequent crafts.  The craft area has a table containing rows of child’s scissors, colored pencils and glue sticks.  On Thursday, the craft was making masks.  The children made the masks out of paper plates, cutting holes for eyes and gluing on various shaped noses and ears.

“There’s not a lot of places for young children in Fairbanks,” said Greta Myerchin-Tape, mom to daughters Odetta and Iris.  Places like the swimming pool have limited hours that don’t work with every schedule, according to Myerchin-Tate.  The children’s museum, however, is open all day.

In April, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum will leave the museum and Riley isn’t sure where it will go for the summer.  There’s a chance the museum will come back to the Museum of the North again in the fall of 2015.  In the summer, the room the children’s museum is in, is used to show movies to tourists.

The Fairbanks Children’s Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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