In March of 2010 Rutland Creative Economy hosted a forum at which the over 150 local residents in attendance identified a children’s museum one of the most important new initiatives to the community. Since that decision, volunteers have dedicated their time and talents to develop exhibits, participate in local events, fundraisers and operate a museum space in downtown Rutland.
For six weeks in the summer of 2011, volunteers joined with Downtown Rutland Partnership to demonstrate the value of a children’s museum during Friday Night Live and Saturday Farmers’ Market. Partnering with Efficiency Vermont, Rutland Area Farm to Food Link (RAFFL) and a local artist, three themed exhibits were developed and built. “Energy in Motion,” “Farm to Fit” and “Transformers.” Each exhibit consisted of 5 – 6 hands-on experiences for young children. The museum committee volunteers raised $10,000 in cash and in-kind donations from community sponsors and contributors, which funded the summer experience. In the 30 hours open to the public, 1,737 visitors walked through the doors. Thus, our summer exhibits demonstrated the potential success of a permanent facility.
For eight weeks in the summer of 2012, volunteers demonstrated the value of a children’s museum during Friday Night Live. The exhibits consisted of the best of 2011 and an additional theme for 2012 of outdoor adventure. The new exhibits brought children and families into the world of camping, building birds nest, exploring life-sized animals and all the attributes of a beaver and much more. In the 24 hours open to the public more than 1,200 visitors walked through the doors. Once again the exhibits demonstrated the potential success of a permanent facility.
Wonderfeet continues to participate in community events by presenting one or more interactive exhibits. A board of directors has been elected and by-laws and articles of incorporation have been created. In February of 2012, Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum incorporated as a Vermont State non-profit. In May of 2013, Wonderfeet became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Wonderfeet is a member of the Association of Children’s Museums.
Wonderfeet collaborates with VAEYC (Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children) to create advanced science and math professional development workshops for early childcare providers (ECP). Museum volunteers/educators have developed workshop curriculum that will be taught around the state. The curriculum is focused on giving ECP the tools to guide inquiry-based activities on force and motion in their facilities. The museum plans to expand on this curriculum.
A space offered by Gus Louras at 17 Center Street in Downtown Rutland was renovated in the summer of 2013 and opened to the public on August 2, 2013. The downtown location opened Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. to the public with a $2.00 admission. Birthday parties by reservation were offered a few months later and educational programs began in January 2014.