The Cape Cod Children’s Museum is going through some changes—but none of them are due to the recent closing of Cape Cod Child Development, which had merged with the museum back in 2017, before the merger was reversed a year later.
“We merged on paper, but we never really got it off the ground in any form, to be honest,” said Lisa Bates, executive director of the Cape Cod Children’s Museum. “I think whatever happened on their end sort of interfered with whatever good was going to happen on our end with us.”
The two entities merged in October 2017. By January 2019, they had officially reversed the merger after a months-long process, Ms. Bates said.
“We just decided the timing wasn’t right, but we were planning to continue to offer programs together and work together,” Ms. Bates said.
Ms. Bates said that one of the reasons why the museum, which is going on its 20th year in 2020, originally merged with Cape Cod Child Development was related to benefits and infrastructural support such as human resources, because the museum is a small nonprofit with only part-time employees.
Since reversing the merger with Cape Cod Child Development, the museum is still chugging along, with new hours, activities and future plans for development.
After learning from patrons with young toddlers that 10 AM is too late to open, the museum changed its opening hours to 9 AM, three days a week. The museum is also open seven days a week, so parents who work weekends will have the opportunity to bring their families to the museum on their day off, Ms. Bates said.
“Being on-Cape, our families work all weekend,” Ms. Bates said. “We’re a service industry, we’re a service area. Monday and Tuesday might be their day off, so I don’t ever want to limit them by not being here.”
The museum administration recently created a buy-one, give-one sponsorship program in which local businesses can buy a membership as a perk for their employees or clients while also buying a membership for a family in need. So far, five or six businesses have participated in the program, Ms. Bates said.
“We were looking for ways that we can still support Cape families—they are our community—and make sure they can enjoy these resources as much as our tourists do,” the director said.
The museum is currently working on receiving grants to improve the museum’s outdoor play options. It has already cordoned off part of the parking lot to dedicate to science experiments and other activities, but adminstrators plan to add outdoor play places and shade structures, she said.
With the anticipated grants, the museum will also install a soft play area for babies and younger children who are not yet walking. Ms. Bates hopes the changes will also provide a space for young mothers to meet and not feel as isolated.
Laura Francher, the facility’s assistant director, has been coming to the museum with her four children for years. Her children were practically raised at the museum, she said. She has met many of her friends through the museum, and many of them still get together today.
Ms. Francher also said that the museum helped her children learn to socialize, learn good manners and learn how to make friends.
“They grow. I watch them come in, and socialization-wise, they’d be too timid to even go to the train table. Four or five months later, Andrew would go over and start playing,” Ms. Francher said.
Kathleen King, a volunteer for the museum who works as a nurse at Falmouth Hospital, leads different science experiments and activities for children to participate and learn in a hands-on way. Her goal is to lead more experiments that are related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“My goal is to have science or math, to up their STEM game,” Ms. King said. “But it all has to be hands-on. It has to be exciting. It has to be active learning. Play is how they learn.”
Making magnetic slime, creating sun prints and watching diet Coke erupt with the addition of a Mento are all experiments that teach children in a fun way, she said.
Each month, Ms. King tries to focus on one specific topic, such as magnetism or carbon dioxide. She is currently working on a body circulation topic that will teach children through games how blood circulates throughout the body. She also created take-home kits for members to borrow and return. For instance, children can play with stethoscopes and listen to their own heartbeats, Ms. King said.
In October, field guides will explore outside with children and collect leaves or watch birds.
Another goal is to make the museum more Cape-Cod focused, leaning more toward oceanographic and marine life, Ms. Bates said.
“We are Cape Cod. We live in an ocean area,” Ms. Bates said. “That should be our focus as a museum.”
In the middle of the museum stands a play ship with its blue-and-yellow mast that children can explore and play on. During their visit they can also enter a play submarine and look out the windows to see the bottom of the ocean.
“There’s nothing better coming in here and watching families engage, put their cellphones down, sit on the floor and build something,” Ms. Bates said. “It’s just time away that you can spend solely focused on your child or your grandchild.”