Valley children's museum to celebrate first birthday
More than 12,000 people visited the museum last year.
By KATIE LIBECCO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Children's Museum of the Valley will celebrate the successes of its first year at a one-year anniversary party Saturday.
"You would not believe how much this museum has accomplished in one year," said Liz Nohra, executive director of the Children's Museum of the Valley.
The museum, at East Boardman Street near the main post office, officially opened with a ribbon cutting Aug. 26, 2004, and more than 12,000 visitors have been there since. About half of the visitors were field trips, Nohra said.
"We are really excited about that," she said. "We enjoy bringing people to Youngstown to experience downtown."
The museum was funded by private and a few corporate donors, Nohra said. The Junior League of Youngstown initially started the Children's Museum project in 2000.
"If it hadn't been for the imagination and creativity of the Junior League and Dr. David Ruffer, the founding director, we wouldn't have this wonderful gift," Nohra said. "And all of our volunteers have been amazing."
Nohra is the only full-time employee, with five part-time workers at the museum. There are also about 12 volunteers who help keep the museum going.
"We still have a major need for volunteers," Nohra said. "We need docents and youth volunteers."
The museum also needs educators to serve on advisory board and programming committees that will be forming this year.
An Ursuline High School graduate, Nohra took over as the museum's director Sept. 7, 2004.
She received her undergraduate degree in history at Youngstown State University. She went on to get her graduate degree in museum studies from Cooperstown College in New York, and her first job out of college was with the Cleveland Children's Museum.
She returned to Youngstown to work with the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
"We are a hands-on museum that provides families with a chance for quality time," Nohra said. "Our main focus is that children learn through play. This is really something new for the Valley.
"The WFMJ news studio is one of our most popular exhibits," she said.
In a replica of the WFMJ TV studio, children get to experience television news production, with a news desk, green screen weather maps and teleprompters.
The Book Nook provides children with a place to focus on reading.
There is also a science center, where children can perform hands-on science experiments on their own.
The Phenomenal Puzzle Center was created with help from Dr. Stephen Sniderman, a former Youngstown State University professor. It features educational games and puzzles for children.
An exhibit specifically for toddlers, titled "Over the Rivers and Through the Woods," will open in the summer of 2006.
"It's important to the museum that we provide a fun and informal learning center for kids that young," Nohra said. "We will incorporate some of the best practices in early childhood education in the exhibit."
Open only to children 4 and younger, the exhibit will be a journey of woods, a river and a replica log cabin. There will many sensory parts of the exhibit incorporating sight, sound, touch and even smell.
First Energy will sponsor an exhibit about electricity next spring.
The current Cultural Center exhibit will be renovated within the next year, featuring a global grocery and ethnic deli. Each year, the Cultural Center will be updated to display a new culture.
"We are really hoping to do more programming for people with needs in the Valley," Nohra said. "We are looking to work with teen mothers and have an after-school enrichment program."
The museum's one-year anniversary celebration will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday for members and will open to the public at noon. Entry is free. Activities will last until 5 p.m.
Krispy Kreme will offer doughnut dipping for kids, and Caribou Coffee will supply coffee. Italian Baking Co. also will supply free cake all day to visitors.
Activities will include a cake raffle, old-fashioned carnival games for children, giveaways, a magician, a clown, face painting, karaoke and more.
For more information, visit www.valleykids.org or call (330) 744-5914.