A center of activity and learning

Magic City Discovery Center open the past four winters

Submitted Photo The Imagination Playground is a popular exhibit. Children could use their imagination to build whatever they would like.

Hands-on learning with a lot of fun is what the Magic City Discovery Center is all about. The children’s museum has been temporarily operating out of the Dakota Territory Air Museum for the past four winters, with a growing amount of attendees every year.

Unfortunately, the museum will not be reopening in 2018-19, and will possibly remain closed until the permanent museum is open, according to interim executive director Wendy Keller.

However, very exciting exhibits and experiences are on the horizon for the children’s museum once they open their permanent location on North Hill.

In the meantime, it’s fair to discuss the impact the children’s museum has had and will have on the community. It is an asset that the children of Minot, the surrounding areas, and North Dakota, deserve.

According to the Association of Children’s Museums, only two states are without a children’s museum or discovery center: Idaho and North Dakota.

The idea of a children’s museum in Minot was born out of a brainstorming session to fill gaps in Minot.

“Give360 was having a brainstorming session about ‘What does Minot need? What would make it a better place than it is now,'” Keller explained. “It came up there and it also came up in the Minot Area Community Foundation listening session.”

Keller said these sessions were happening at the height of the oil boom as Minot began expanding to attract potential workers and their families to the state. The community spoke up and said there wasn’t enough for children to do in Minot, especially in the winter.

To start raising money, Magic City Discovery Center volunteers, with help from Give360, hosted a Color Dash fundraiser to get the ball rolling. Keller then attended the first Association of Children’s Museums conference and said it really opened her eyes to what a children’s museum was.

“I didn’t have any idea that there’s 300 children’s museums out there and there’s a whole bunch of industries that are supporting (the museums) and it’s just a huge world,” she said.

After attending the ACM conference, a consultant came to help Keller and a board of members begin planning for a children’s museum. That November, in 2014, the Magic City Discovery Center opened for the first time.

“We just closed our fourth successful season (in 2018),” Keller said. “We’ve had about 20,000 people go through (the museum), so we feel like we really reached a good level.”

The children’s museum began with a temporary setup because they wanted to be able to reach the community as soon as possible. Keller said from idea to planning to opening a permanent location takes five to seven years.

“We just thought ‘That’s crazy. We’re not going to wait that long, we don’t have the time to wait,'” Keller said.

She went on to say they also opened temporarily to educate the community about what a children’s museum really is.

“When you say ‘Museum,’ they think of things behind glass. Well, that’s part of the reason we decided to stay with ‘Discovery Center,’ because it seems like it explains it a little bit more for people who don’t know all about touching and interacting with things,” she said.

The Magic City Discovery Center uses STEAM ideals and concepts to provide children with an exciting, hands-on learning experience. STEAM is an educational approach that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking.

The museum gets children engaged and learning in ways that are outside the typical norm. Everything is very hands-on and encourages critical thinking to help children develop a curiosity and excitement for learning.

Keller said it’s been really great to see the community support for the children’s museum. Many of the exhibits in the temporary operation has been provided by local craftsmanship, and that’s something Keller wants to see continue in the permanent museum.

“I think we’ve got plenty of talented tradesmen here so there isn’t any reason that we couldn’t have some of the fabrication of things done locally,” she said.

With the design itself, many North Dakota, Midwest and North American themes are planned for the exhibits inside the museum. A trestle bridge is featured in one of the designs, as well as the Northern Lights and other landmarks that Keller thinks will resonate with people from the area.

“It’s just been such excitement,” Keller said. “The kids walk in and they’re like, ‘Wow, this is so cool, this is so fun,’ and they just get so excited about (the museum).”

Keller also explained that many young families view children’s museums as a destination. Not only is this going to benefit the city of Minot, but it will also bring families from around the region to enjoy an attraction that isn’t available anywhere else in the state.

“Not only is it fun, it’s healthy, it’s getting kids moving more,” Keller said. “But we’ve also heard from the oil companies and others that they would love to hire North Dakota people, but we don’t have the skillset sometimes that they’re looking for.”

According to Keller, part of the lack of skill set is due to the fact that the state is not sparking the interest in the STEAM ideals early enough. She explained that the museum can work with schools and supplement STEAM learning and get children started earlier.

“It’s to encourage that love of learning,” Keller said. “I absolutely think it’s so important.” She also said the museum is meant to be multigenerational. Parents, grandparents, siblings and relatives are all encouraged to get down and play with the children and be excited about learning along with them.

In early April, the Magic City Discovery Center entered a lease agreement with the Minot Parks District for land on North Hill, paying $1 a year for the next 50 years. With the land acquired for the permanent museum, MCDC president Mark Lyman said fundraising can officially begin for the project and is aiming for construction to begin in 2019. He said the building could potentially be fully constructed by the end of 2020.

“We’re wanting to build it so that it’s sustainable,” Keller said. “It’s a big enough level that draws people but yet it’s sustainable because even during good times or bad, our children deserve this.”

Magic City Discovery Center Information

Unfortunately, MCDC will be closed for the 2018-19 season and possibly closed until a permanent location is built. To stay up-to-date with the latest MCDC news, visit their website magiccitydiscoverycenter.com, or their Facebook page at Magic City Discovery Center.