CHUBBUCK — At a new museum in the Pine Ridge Mall, children get to experiment with circuitry, make works of art from salvaged containers, test aerodynamics in a wind tunnel and pretend to run their own pizzeria.
The My World Discovery Museum hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday night and will now be open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 per child and $2 for each accompanying adult. Family nights will be hosted on the first Monday of every month from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a $20 family admission. Memberships are also available, starting $125 for an annual family pass.
The museum is housed within a 5,500-square-foot storefront.
"There are lots of reasons why we love the mall," said co-founder Melodie Daniels. "The location is central, it has public transit to it and we like the family feel of the mall."
Daniels said owners of other mall business — such as Level Up and Jump In — have been extremely supportive and plan to collaborate with the new museum on joint specials and promotions.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is limiting admission to 30 people at a time. Daniels said the facility is being cleaned and sanitized frequently and sanitizer is available for guests. Masks are recommended but aren't required, as getting children to keep them on can be a challenge, Daniels explained. The museum will make sanitized face shields available and will encourage children to draw on them to make wearing them more fun.
Children at the museum learn lessons in science by experimenting with circuits, gears, pulleys, vices and screws. They can fly helicopters and figures on parachutes in the wind tunnel. At the Maker Space, they get to create crafts from egg cartons, paper towel tubes and other salvaged household items.
There are special walls where children can make designs with colored tape or magnets or build a pillar of Legos. There's a farm-themed toddler area, where guests can sow a crop or harvest toy corn.
Perhaps the greatest surprise to Daniels has been that even the older kids seem to enjoy making pretend pizzas at a pizzeria, where an old treadmill belt runs a pretend convection oven.
"When we build this we thought it would be up to 8. We're finding that 11-year-olds are just as excited to be building pizzas," Daniels said.
The museum is run by a 12-member board and has benefited from the help of hundreds of volunteers. It's been in the works since February of 2018, and volunteers have raised tens of thousands of dollars. In addition to donations, they've hosted fundraisers such as a Harry Potter-themed event called A Night at Hogwarts and a Thor-themed obstacle course on Scout Mountain.
Prior to the recent opening, the museum invited its supporters and volunteers to bring their kids as a staff-training opportunity.
In June of 2018, Bengal Solutions conducted a feasibility study for the museum, concluding there was strong demand for a local children's museum and the community could support a facility with up to 30,000-square-feet of space. Daniels said the museum's longterm goal is to move into a much larger facility.
The museum employs seven paid staff members, three of whom work during each shift. They also have a volunteer program, through which individuals, businesses and organizations are invited to send volunteers to help run the museum.
On days during which the museum doesn't have regular hours, groups or people may book it for special events. The museum also plans to offer special days for children with health concerns amid the pandemic.