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Sarah Allen ’20 helps the Utica Children’s Museum with programming

By Upstate Institute on September 11, 2018

-Written by Sarah Allen ’20

Sarah Allen ’20 at the Children’s Museum

This summer I worked at the Utica Children’s museum as an intern focused on developing new programming for the organization. The museum is a non-profit with a dedication to providing children with a place in which they can learn in a fun and hands on manner. Their mission statement explains this well, describing that the museum is meant, “to offer an environment that supports every child’s natural curiosity to learn through hands-on, play-based exploration.” In the past year, the museum entered a management contract with Kids Oneida, an organization dedicated to helping families in need. Their mission statement is, “to empower children, families and individuals who have high service needs and enabling them to live ways that are productive, healthy and meaningful.” This management agreement has helped the museum by allowing it grow more organized and to adopt a similar, community based mentality to that of Kids Oneida.

The museum operates through offering a range of events for children, primarily ages four through nine, including regular craft activities, STEM-based projects, birthday parties, and themed days. As the museum continues to grow, they want to increase the amount of programming available with fun events and activities taking place on a more regular basis. More available events would help to increase museum attendance while providing children with more opportunities to learn in a fun and entertaining manner. Having a greater array of available events would also appeal to greater number of children with various interests. The museum serves a large number of children, primarily from the greater Utica area, with a wide variety of backgrounds. This diversity of attendance is supported by the museum’s several efforts towards increasing accessibility including the Museums for All program, which offers reduced admission to families receiving financial assistance, and wheelchair accessibility.

My job at the museum, aside from helping to facilitate daily museum activities, was to assist in developing new programs for the fall. I have put together a schedule of events for the months of September and October. Some of the events I am most proud of designing are a detective day, where kids can follow the clues on a scavenger hunt to solve a mystery, and a celebration of National Food Bank Day, where the museum can run a food drive for the community. I have also been working on other organizational tasks for the museum, such as creating a log of past events and a list of craft ideas for the future. Working on coming up with crafts and events is a help to the museum in that it takes a lot of stress off of other employees who don’t necessarily have the time to be constantly working on event planning. As I previously mentioned, increased programming is very helpful to the growing museum and its efforts to serve the Utica community.

I have been able to learn a great deal from this opportunity. By working at the museum I’ve learned so much about the management aspects of an organization and how much really goes into running a nonprofit. Through my independent research, I’ve been able to learn the value of many of the research tools used academically and how they can be applied to a career after college. I have really enjoyed this experience in that not only was I learning, but I was able to serve the community while doing so. As someone both from Upstate New York and a Colgate student, I was glad to be able to make an impact on my community. In addition, working with kids is something I have always enjoyed and some of the kids I got to work with at the museum were incredibly sweet and made my experiences there all the more gratifying. Additionally, my experiences at the museum looking at how childhood development can influence what activities are appropriate, have caused me to think​ that I may want to go into developmental neuroscience, to learn more about the biological basis for development. ​My work at the museum doesn’t directly relate to my major neuroscience, but it did teach me skills in research, leadership, and problem solving that would translate to any field.

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