EverWonder Children’s Museum board members Chris and Kristin Chiriatti, Rebekah Harriman-Stites, and Karen Smiley welcomed a steady stream of curious parents and children, from Newtown and other area towns, to opening day of the “EverWonder Experience,” Saturday, April 6.
The EverWonder Experience is located in a freestanding building tucked behind the sprawling industrial complex at 31 Peck’s Lane that houses Tier One, LLC and other businesses. It is an example, on a much smaller scale, of what board members hope will one day be a permanent children’s museum in Newtown, offering children science-based learning and fun. The EverWonder Experience is open Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm, and Sundays from noon to 3 pm, through August. Admission is free, and the Experience is appropriate for children from toddlers to age 12.
“We’re really excited to be able to give back to the community and show an example of what the museum can one day be,” said Ms Chiriatti, “and we’re so grateful to Tier One for this space. They’ve been a huge help.”
The temporary space, donated by Tier One, LLC, a machining and assembly solutions company, is approximately 1,600 square feet in total, while the goal of the nonprofit EverWonder Children’s Museum is to open a permanent space ten times that size.
The EverWonder Experience is two rooms offering different kinds of activities. In one room, children can interact with nine different stations focused on sound and movement. “Cool Moves,” consisting of 18 stations in its entirety, was purchased from the Ithaca Children’s Museum, in large part through the Night for Newtown fundraiser in Boston, March 23, said Ms Harriman-Stites. Current space only allows for half of the exhibit to be erected at once, she said, but various stations will be swapped throughout the spring and summer months, providing repeat visitors with new experiences.
The second room is dedicated to art and science workshops, which will change each week.
On April 6, children were having fun experimenting at a spin art station and dabbling with painting canvases, or decorating toddler-height chalkboards with original, erasable art.
The other room was holding the attention of several children, as they ran from one hands-on exhibit to the next.
“I’ve followed this museum from the beginning,” said Lana Byl of Southbury, visiting with her daughter, Sophia. “I was so excited this was coming here. It’s a great experience for kids. They’re learning, and they don’t even know it,” said Ms Byl, watching as Sophia joined 4-year-old Noah Beninati of Easton in racing wheels down a sloped track, demonstrating both rotating and forward motion.
Fifteen-month-old Sawyer Beninati, Noah’s brother, paused to bounce on his toes in front of the Dancing Wall, where his movement triggered sensors and set off an array of differently colored lights.
“We had so much fun today,” said Lisa Agresta, as she carried 4-year-old Carsen out of the art room. “We did painting, and spin art. The Giant Pendulum was cool, and Carsen liked the Touchable Tornado in the other room,” Ms Agresta said, as Carsen shyly nodded his head in agreement.
Kim Hufschmied was at the EverWonder Experience with her 8-year-old daughter, Amelia, and friend, Sarah Bertche, also 8 years old. The Hufschmieds have visited other Connecticut museums geared toward children, she said, and she was pleased to know that one is in the works for Newtown. “I think it would be good for putting us on the map for something new,” said Ms Hufschmied, a Newtown resident. “We’re looking forward to seeing the museum on a grander scale one day,” she added.
Newtown native Sarah McElhinney, now of Boston, was experiencing EverWonder with her son, Jack, 3 ½ years old, and her parents, Sue and Randy Lewis of Newtown. “Jack’s been having a grand time,” said Mr Lewis, as Jack grabbed at the foggy “tornado” swirling in front of him at the Touchable Tornado station.
The EverWonder Experience grew out of a response to museums around the country that reached out to the EverWonder organization after 12/14, said Ms Chiriatti. The offers from other museums to loan exhibits presented board members with two problems: first, they had no space in which to erect the exhibits. Secondly, many offers were for a three of four week period, Ms Chiriatti said, leaving them to wonder how they would fill in the gaps in the year when they had no special exhibits.
Tier One had unused garage space in the Peck’s Lane industrial park that had been offered to the Newtown Memorial Fund, said Joe Young, president of the real estate division for Tier One. When that group found they could not use the space, those members suggested to him that EverWonder was seeking somewhere to set up a temporary museum. “It’s a nice cause and a nice thing for them to do for children in the area,” said Mr Young, adding that Dave Sousa of Sousa Plumbing in Danbury took care of heating and plumbing issues in the space.
The offer of space from Tier One solved the first problem, and generous donations from supporters allowed them to purchase the Cool Moves exhibit, which will become part of the permanent museum eventually, Ms Chiriatti said.
One hundred percent of donations, monetary or in kind, go to serve Newtown’s children, stressed Ms Chiriatti.
“We hope people will come out and get an idea of what a children’s museum can be,” she said. “We’re proud and excited to be able to do this on behalf of all the donors and volunteers,” she said.
The EverWonder Experience is located at 31 Peck’s Lane. Look for signs off of Route 25. It is open Saturdays, 10 am to 3 pm; Sundays, noon to 3 pm, through August. Admission is free. Visit www.everwondermuseum.org for updates on exhibits, art, and science workshop schedules.