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After facing possible closure during the pandemic, the Explorium Denton Children’s Museum looks forward to celebrating its annual Touch-A-Truck event in April.
The recent pandemic has been hard on all businesses, including nonprofits. One organization that knows this first-hand is the Explorium Denton Children’s Museum, which according to Executive Director Dinora Padilla almost did not make it through those two years.
“We had an angel donor who kept us alive,” she explains. “Otherwise, our doors would have been closed.”
Now Padilla hopes more families coming through the doors and the museum’s upcoming Touch-A-Truck fundraiser event will allow them to meet their financial goals to continue providing their services to Denton families.
Space to Learn and Play
So who is the Explorium Denton Children’s Museum? Founded in 2012, Padilla says the museum was created to give parents and children a space to come learn and play together.
“Denton didn’t really have a space like that until we had our building,” she says. “We (wanted) to create a safe space where these families can come and have the children be in control of their learning. In our museum, the children are in charge. Of course, there are boundaries and safety rules that they have to follow like anywhere else, but they get to decide here, and they get to have fun.”
Explorium has a little something for every child, from a life-sized interactive cow that kids can actually “milk,” to a life-sized chicken coop helping promote large motor skills. There are also a wide variety of STEM-related activities, including robots and a Make a Think Area that rotates challenges every two weeks based on different monthly themes.
Although most of the activities in Explorium are designed for kids 12 and younger, that does not mean older siblings and adult parents can’t enjoy them as well.
“We want parents engaged — we want parents involved in the children’s learning,” Padilla says. “There are some times here in the museum where the kid is doing a puzzle and the parent is building a giraffe. And we love to see it — we love when the parents are having more fun than the kids sometimes.”
And older siblings have the opportunity to participate in Explorium’s Big Brother Big Sister volunteer program. The program allows older kids to help younger ones in all the activities. “Then they’re learning to teach others,” she adds. “There’s just so much power in being able to teach someone else and have some self-confidence building right there that you did that — you taught them something new.”
Volunteer & Donation Needs
In addition to the museum’s open hours from Wednesday through Saturday and their special events, Explorium also offers birthday parties, field trips, special holiday hours, and summer camps.
This summer, Padilla says they will be offering a total of 12 camps in two, three, and five-day options. She explains the summer camps are all STEM-based with challenges designed to get kids thinking, creating, and engineering new things. And some of the camps are based on themes such as gardening or programming a robot from scratch.
“These are skills that kids will need as they’re growing up in this new society — these are the things that employers will be looking for. We’re already starting that seed right now,” Padilla adds.
To make sure all these summer camps and the museum runs smoothly, Padilla relies on volunteers from the community. Volunteer opportunities range from helping kids with museum activities to front desk office work to fundraising assistance.
For those interested in volunteering, Padilla urges them to fill out a volunteer interest form on Explorium’s website. This will also add them to their email list for monthly volunteer opportunities.
And Explorium also has a wish list for donations. Padilla says their biggest needs are snacks and coffee items for the snack cart they provide to museum visitors, and art supplies.
“We go through art supplies like it’s nobody’s business,” she explains. “So construction paper, markers, glue, stickers, stuff like that — all of the art supplies that you can think of.”
Padilla even wants items that families may consider trash. “We have people who drop off a trash bag full of (empty) toilet paper rolls,” she says. “We use those in some of our activities. We love to teach kiddos here how to recycle and reuse. We try to use materials that don’t have to go to the landfill — we’ll use them instead.”
On Saturday, April 30th, from 10 am to 1 pm, Explorium Denton Children’s Museum will host its sixth annual Touch-A-Truck fundraiser. This community event allows children and their families to explore all types of vehicles, including construction, utility, public service, emergency, and delivery trucks.
“The kids will be allowed to touch them,” Padilla says. “Some of them will have their doors open so the kids can get inside of them and push and see what it feels like, what it looks like inside.”
The event will also feature vendors with children’s activities, food trucks, a silent auction, and more.
At 9 am — an hour before the event opens to the general public — Padilla says Touch-A-Truck will only be open for attendees who have sensory differences. “The first hour of the event will have lower noises,” she explains. “There won’t be as many people (and) some of the flashings of the trucks will be turned off so that it doesn’t overstimulate any of our friends who might mean something that’s more mellow. I’m excited (to) make it inclusive to those families that need those special accommodations.”
And Explorium has also made the event accessible to all families in Denton, regardless of their finances. Admission to Touch-A-Truck is a donation to Explorium. Although the suggested donation is $2 per person, Padilla invites families to attend whether they can pay or not.
“We want the families to come and learn together — it speaks to our mission,” she explains. “We don’t want financial restraints to be a reason why people don’t come.”
The Explorium Denton Children’s Museum is located at 5800 I-35 in Denton. Visit exploriumdenton.org for operating hours and more information.
The 6th Annual Touch-A-Truck event will take place Saturday, April 30th from 10am to 1pm at the C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, 1500 Long Road, in Denton. Click here for more event information.