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Local Group Makes Plans For Children's Museum In Newtown



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Local Group Makes Plans For Children’s Museum In Newtown

By Nancy K. Crevier

Ever wonder why there is not a children’s museum within 40 minutes of Newtown? Kristin Chiriatti and her husband, Chris, wondered that shortly after moving to town just over two years ago.

“We always brought our 2-year-old and 6-year-old to children’s museums, since they were little. When we moved here from Las Vegas, I looked for a nearby museum, but found I had to travel to get to one, like the Stepping Stone in Norwalk,” said Ms Chiriatti. Traveling any distance with small children is not always convenient, and if parents have children in preschool or elementary school, it does not leave enough time at the end of the day for the whole family to visit any of the children’s museums in Connecticut on weekdays, she said.

A little over a year ago, Ms Chiriatti, who has a BS in chemistry and an MBA, and who had done marketing for a children’s museum in Las Vegas, decided to find out if she and her husband were the only ones who “ever wondered.” She posted fliers in the children’s department of the C.H. Booth Library to see if she could generate interest in a children’s museum for Newtown.

“I found some great people to work with me and get serious about developing the idea,” said Ms Chiriatti, who can only guess that the reason a children’s museum does not exist here is that no one has had the time or passion to make that dream a reality.

“Newtown really values children’s education and people here really value their children. We’re targeting an audience within 20 miles of Newtown, and I think Newtown is the perfect place for a children’s museum,” she said.

Incorporated in January 2011, as “everw?nder children’s museum,” Ms Chiriatti, president, her husband, and board members Kerrie Glassman, Karen Smiley, and Karlee Winkler expect to receive tax deductible status for their nonprofit organization by April.

They have invited selected town officials, community leaders, and educators to join them at an informational meeting Thursday, March 1, at Edmond Town Hall for an overview of their vision.

“We’ve done a huge amount of research this past year and feel we are ready now to let people know what we are doing,” Ms Chiriatti said. The meeting will allow community leaders to offer input to the group and provide time for the board to answer questions.

“Children’s museums are places where your kids can be silly and loud. Everything is hands on and allows them to explore all of their senses,” she said and that is what they hope everw?onder can provide.

Their vision is for a space 16,000–20,000 square feet that can be divided into areas to include exhibits on motion, sound and electricity, water play, and to allow space for an arts creativity center and workshops, as well as a “challenge corner,” where children will be pushed to “think outside the box, to not have the answers supplied to them,” explained Ms Chiriatti.

The name of the museum, everw?nder children’s museum, was reached through the assistance of a local parent who works in branding, she said, and one that the board agreed could possibly become a theme throughout the museum — ever wonder?

They envision a limited paid staff, and a heavy reliance on volunteers of all ages. “We see it as a great place to come together, as a community,” she said.

“Our ideal location is up at Fairfield Hills. The Youth Academy is there, there are sports games that attract families going on there, and it is convenient to the highway,” she said.

The board estimates the cost of building everw?nder children’s museum to be around $4 million, and is hoping that a large chunk of that cost will be offset by grants and foundations. Fundraising will begin this May, said Ms Chiriatti, with complete funding hopefully achieved by 2014, and completion of the museum by 2015.

“At this point we’re very excited. We know there is a long road ahead, but we want to spread the word and are anxious to see how everyone else responds,” Ms Chiriatti said.

The March 1 meeting is not open to the public, but the group invites community members interested in promoting the children’s museum to step forward, particularly those with areas of expertise that can further the vision. To find out how to become involved, contact kchiriatti@everwondermuseum.com or call 203-304-1924.

For more information, visit www.everwondermuseum.com.

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