Kidzu Children’s Museum will celebrate its 17th birthday with a party on Sunday, March 5 from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger issued a proclamation on Kidzu's 10th birthday in 2016, making the first Sunday in March "Kidzu Day" due to the impact the museum has had on the community, according to an email from Kailey Singleton, Kidzu's director of operations.
Kidzu is a nonprofit, hands-on museum that opened in March 2006 with the purpose of educating children in engaging ways, located inside University Place Mall at 201 S. Estes Dr.
It features many exhibits, including a climbing wall, an outdoor learning garden and a maker space, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts, math and “maker education."
Because of COVID-19, Kidzu closed for nearly a year. However, the museum staff created new online resources to allow children to keep benefiting from its vision.
“During COVID, when we had to be closed, we created a virtual museum," Singleton said. "So we were able to extend our resources to people all across the globe — we actually had some in other countries that were visiting our website and using some of our content.”
After several years of not being able to celebrate, Kidzu is hosting its 17th birthday party. The party will showcase new birthday themes, and special guests will facilitate multilingual storytimes.
Spin art and a birthday card-making station will be available in the Makery, a creative space in the museum, and there will be a bubble dance party in the museum at 4 p.m. Anyone who attends the party will receive a voucher for $50 off a birthday party at Kidzu.
“Our maker space was one of the first maker spaces in the Carolinas that was dedicated specifically to young children,” Singleton said.
People of all ages can use the tools and materials in the space to construct different projects and explore new technologies, according to the museum's website.
The location also works together with nearby academic institutions, such as UNC, N.C. State University and Duke University, to enrich their program with updated research and technologies.
Every month, the Makery hosts local "Makery Masters." These masters are local experts who impart their knowledge and expertise to visitors of the museum.
Kidzu also collaborates with other nonprofits and organizations to provide a variety of activities and experiences for the children who visit.
One notable example of these collaborations was the IF/THEN Gender Equity Engagement Grant funded by Lyda Hill Philanthropies. This grant was awarded to Kidzu by the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
The IF/THEN Initiative seeks to promote and support women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to Amanda Fisher, senior manager of programs at the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
Kidzu emphasized this mission by including several exhibits displaying the workspaces of women in a variety of STEM careers.
“Seeing the different types of careers really can be really inspiring," Fisher said. "We often think of scientists as working in a lab or engineers building bridges, but there's such a huge variety of careers out there that are beyond that.”
Museum settings are a great way for kids to learn about these important topics, according to Adam Fagen, director of communications, advocacy and engagement for the Association of Science and Technology Centers.
He said Kidzu was chosen as a recipient of this grant because they were able to expand the IF/THEN Initiative's reach to a large number of people and provided a perfect environment for children to learn.
“Museums just provide that sort of really rich way to engage people and get them to be hands-on and minds-on,” Fagen said.
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