Did you know that it takes 556 worker bees to produce one pound of honey? This is just one of the interesting things kids will learn at the Flint Children’s Museum new exhibit, A Bee’s Life. The bright and colorful display, painted by resident artist Caron Severn, opened on March 31 in the museum’s Discovery Zone exhibit area. It was designed to teach children the life cycle of bees and the important role they play in our ecosystem, according to Kimberly Roddy, Acting Executive Director. “Kids learn as they dress-up as drone bees, worker bees or queen bees, dance the ‘waggle dance’ and then carry the pollen from over-sized, three-dimensional flowers to the honeycomb climbing ramp,” she says.
Kids from all over have enjoyed exhibits at FCM for almost 35 years. In 1979, local educator and Flint native Mary Newman had a vision to create a hands-on experiential learning center in her own community. She was inspired by the research-backed concept that hands-on learning is an important component of early childhood educational development and the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The museum operated in the North Bank Center in Downtown Flint for seven years. An opportunity came about to relocate FCM to the campus of Kettering University in 1993. Since then, it has become an integral part of the University Avenue Corridor, connecting the campuses of Kettering and UM-Flint.
Some of the most popular exhibit areas are Our Town and Sproutside. In Our Town, the children can shop for groceries from Smart Mart and take them to Sam’s House. They deliver mail from the Post Office, serve customers in Fractions Pizza, and put out fires from the Flint Fire Station fire truck. “Kids can easily spend an hour or two in these exhibits,” reports Kimberly. Sproutside is one of only four Nature Explore-certified outdoor classrooms in the state. During the summer, kids love being outside where they can run the Fitness Circuit, eat fresh fruits and veggies from the Edible Gardens, and play in the Michigan Mitten sandbox. “Child-curated gardens, outdoor science demonstrations, and lots of room for nature-based activities make Sproutside one of our most popular features,” says Kimberly. Sproutside will re-open on May 1.
What’s new at the museum? Thanks to a sponsorship from General Motors, they recently redesigned one of the music exhibits into A World of Sound. The exhibit has talking tubes that span throughout the building, a Theremin, and fun percussion pieces. In August there will be a new display in the Discovery Zone, May the Forest Be with You, which Kimberly says will immerse children in a forest-like environment and teach them about plants, animals and various other natural elements.
Kimberly believes that the FCM is important to the community because the programming reaches kids at a critical developmental stage. “Our fun and interactive educational experiences naturally inspire a child’s curiosity!” she exclaims. “It encourages learning that sets children up for success in the future.” The museum also works to coordinate its educational content with the public school curriculum to ensure that it is relevant for children and their families in all academic fields. Last year, the FCM served more than 66,000 children and families. With the support of generous donors and community partners, the FCM provides unique educational experiences to the youngest and most at-risk youth. “We are always expanding our reach into the community to serve as many children as possible,” Kimberly says.
What are their future plans? “We will continue to work toward becoming Genesee County’s leading early childhood experiential learning center and beyond,” Kimberly says. They will also continue to emphasize supporting the learning outcomes of Genesee County schools and promoting school readiness for young children in all disciplines. “It is a fun, safe play space with an educational core and ever-changing experiences for our visitors,” Kimberly says. “Whether it is free play or facilitated fun, the FCM inspires in kids a lifelong love for learning.”
Did you know?
FCM is an independent non-profit organization supported solely by donors, sponsors, museum members, guests, and volunteers. The museum has a $500,000 budget and a staff of just 14 people. Every week, there are new educational activities. The FCM staff can bring customized programming to schools and classrooms at any time. Sixty-six percent of FCM visitors come from Genesee County; specifically, 27 percent are Flint residents. Thirty-one percent of visitors are from Michigan, 2 percent are national visitors, and less than 1 percent is international visitors. The FCM has a satellite location at the Flint Farmers’ Market. A $75 membership gets a family free admission for one year at the FCM and hundreds of other museums.
Photography by Mike Naddeo