Truckee’s small-town children’s museum, KidZone, just won a big award. Metlife Foundation and Association of Children’s Museum recognized the KidZone Museum as one of the top three children’s museums in the country.
KidZone was awarded top honors and $10,000 at the Promising Practice Awards, which were presented on May 19 at the InterActivity 2011: Innovation is Child’s Play conference in Houston, Tex.
KidZone was distinguished for its grassroots efforts to reach out to low-income and Hispanic families, as well as its ability to create a highly interactive and creative place where children can explore, discover, and learn through play.
‘We were very honored to be recognized,’ said Carol Meagher, executive director of the KidZone Museum. ‘It was a complete honor. And we’re still in shock.’
To earn a Promising Practice Award, a children’s museum must stand out as innovating and redefining traditional museums where play is highly interactive, according to a press release. Museums are competitively evaluated among a jury of experts in museum design and programming. The KidZone Museum received a Promising Practice Award for its KidsReach program, which increased visitation to the KidZone Museum from low-income children and families by 500 percent in three years.
‘Sometimes I think we’re lucky that we’re such a small museum because we can do more grassroots efforts,’ Meagher said.
‘The personal connection that our museum was able to make with people in the Latino community — that really won our award.’
KidZone has been partnering with First5 Placer and the Institute of Museum and Library Services over the past few years to create the KidsReach program, which provides transportation to KidZone to under-privileged families, especially those in Kings Beach, and also pays for bilingual staff that support Spanish-speaking children and families who come to the museum.
‘We wanted to offer a community program where all children of all socio-economic levels can play together,’ said Romina Branje, KidsReach coordinator, in a press release.
Meagher attended the awards ceremony with Branje. The other two museums that received top honors were the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Conn., and DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, Ill.
The award is a landmark in the evolution of KidZone, which started out 20 years ago as a space for children to play and improve motor skills while there was snow outside. The Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum, as it was once called, was completely volunteer run at that time. The museum continues to rely on the support of community volunteers and donors today.
‘I think that what makes us so strong, besides our staff, are the volunteers and donors,’ Meagher said. ‘If we didn’t have that support, we couldn’t do all those extracurricular programs.’
Meagher said the $10,000 award will be used to support operations, including rent, utilities, and staff wages. The award will boost the KidZone Museum’s reputation among children’s museums nationwide, and will hopefully encourage more grant funding. Info: kidzonemuseum.org
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