POTSDAM — Instead of taking baby steps during its first year, the North Country Children’s Museum got off to a running start.
Housed in the Red Barn at 10 Raymond St., the museum has plenty to celebrate as it marks the anniversary of its July 2018 opening.
Museum Director Sharon V. Williams said the interactive facility drew approximately 18,000 visitors, nearly double the 10,000 that was projected,
Also, about 600 family memberships were sold, compared to the 200 that were expected. The memberships provide families year-long entrance to the museum as well as a discount on camps, special programs and birthday parties.
“I think people come out and realize what an amazing resource this is, so they come back,” Ms. Williams said. “Kids spend hours there. They don’t want to leave.”
During the past year, air conditioning was installed, week-long science and art camps were held, staffing and programs were added.
Soon, a 20th-century John Deere tractor will be placed outside the museum for youngsters to climb on. It was donated to the museum by the St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum and restored by high school students attending Seaway Technical and Vocational Center, Norwood.
Farm Credit East helped fund the project. A mini-play area near the tractor will have benches donated by Jefferson Concrete, Watertown.
“This will celebrate our north country heritage and culture,” Ms. Williams said.
Collaborating on programs with educators and students from area colleges has been another reason the not-for-profit museum has thrived, Ms. Williams said.
She pointed to a digital wall project created in collaboration with Clarkson University that should be ready by the end of the summer. As youngsters move, they’ll see their silhouette transform into different Adirondack animals.
Future plans include teaming up with SUNY Potsdam’s Gibson Art Gallery.
“Kids will be able to exhibit their work and artists will work with the kids,” she said. “It’s really going to be phenomenal.”
Financial support from Canton-Potsdam Hospital, businesses and individuals has helped the museum offer a $25 annual membership rate to families whose children qualify for free or reduced lunches. The regular annual rate is $85.
“That (discounted rate) is cheaper than taking a family to McDonald’s, bowling or to the movies,” Ms. Williams said. “About 15 percent of our memberships are low-income families. We’d like to increase that to 30 percent. That’s part of our mission.”
The main exhibits are all interactive, with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math. They include a life-sized maple tree, a food co-op and bakery, a play space, steam power, Adirondack water play and construction zone.
The long-term plan includes launching a capital campaign next year to raise funds to add new museum exhibits to the building’s second floor.
This summer, two week-long camps are scheduled, an art and theater camp and a chemistry lab camp. Special programs are held on the weekends, ranging from family kite building to kaleidoscopes.
“We’re still figuring things out, but we have a lot of ideas in the works,” Ms. Williams said.
More information is available on the museum’s website: http://www.northcountrychildrensmuseum.org/.