CMSJ: Summary of Community Roundtable

Childrens Museum
The Board of Directors of the Children’s Museum of St. Johns updated Historic City News yesterday with a summary on ideas and suggestions developed during their Community Roundtable Meetings.

Over the past year, CMSJ has hosted six Community Roundtable Meetings in an effort to generate input from those in our community regarding our vision for a children’s museum located in St. Johns County. The roundtable first was held in June 2007 at the Lighthouse Museum with approximately fifty participants. The remaining roundtables were held in March/April 2008 at five of the branches of the St. John’s County Public Library. Attendance varied by location, but all participants were truly supportive in the vision of CMSJ and offered valuable insight into what this community wants and needs from CMSJ. The following is a summation of information gathered at these sessions.

Location
Our hope in finding a site for CMSJ is one that is centrally located within St. Johns County. We would also like to be included in the St. Augustine Visitors Guide to make CMSJ known to tourists visiting St. Augustine. Accordingly, we would like for CMSJ to be located within an eight mile radius of downtown St. Augustine. Of course, we would not turn down a contribution of a building or piece of land located anywhere in St. Johns County. The following were some sites suggested at the Community Roundtable Meetings:

• Pot Belly’s Theater
• Old Ice Packing Plant on Riberia
• City’s Old Waterworks Building
• National Guard Armory (located off of both San Marco Avenue/U.S. 1)
• On land next to SWING Park/new parking facility
• Ponce de Leon Mall
• Post Office Building on King Street (will be vacated in a couple of years)
• Fullerwood School (San Marco)
• Old Cadillac dealership on San Marco
• Old homes in front of old jail
• Abandoned Foodway on West King Street
• Clark-Worley House (in West St. Augustine; move to vacant lot on Riberia)
• Vilano Town Center
• World Golf Village
• Old Civic Center in Hastings
• Southwest Corner of West King Street and Holmes
• Build facility off of SR 207
• Silverleaf (World Golf Village)
• D.W. Hutson – 10,000+ homes; academic community

In addition to specific location suggestions, many Roundtable participants offered other thoughts regarding accessibility, size, features and other considerations regarding site selection. These suggestions included:

• Don’t eliminate any sectors by choosing a location that is difficult to get to from any sector (St. Augustine is most central but World Golf Village is as well)
• Consider having satellite facilities to serve the various sectors of SJC as well as the main facility (partnering with SJC library and using branches for traveling exhibits might be easiest/least costly way of doing this)
• Consider bus accessibility and parking for large groups, field trips
• Consider county’s demographics; locate CMSJ where most children and families reside
• Consider drive time for different sectors of the county (according to studies, if an attraction is more than 20 minutes away, people will think twice about going)
• Don’t ignore foot traffic; tourism exposure
• Annex with city library if in Waterworks building
• Historic building has limitations/higher costs
• Try to have building with a solar powered generator
• Partner with COA/Sunshine Bus
• Select a site that has room to grow
• Include a performing arts venue for children’s performing arts and/or offerings geared to children (this offers opportunities for partnerships with other local organizations such as the St. Augustine Children’s Chorus)
• Include an income producing café in the round where caregivers can relax and visit while kids play in the center
• How long will kids be entertained? Location nearby to other kid-focused sites/facilities (such as SWING park, or Downtown Library/Playground/Carousel) would offer more incentive to come to the museum
• Partner with city governments
• Consider having a temporary space to get started, even a portable if necessary; would help expose community to museum offerings, albeit modest, and create awareness
• Preserving an old building teaches a good lesson to our younger generation
• Think to the future; undeveloped parts of SJC will become very populated in 5+ years

Audience
The target audience for CMSJ is young children – ages 3 months to 12 years. We did however receive many useful suggestions regarding our audience at the Roundtable discussions and will keep those suggestions in mind as we move forward with our plans for the museum. These suggestions included:

• Involving teenagers by requesting that they serve as docents and volunteers
• Accommodating children with disabilities
• Partnering with organizations serving at-risk kids
• Partner with home school programs
• Look at developmental stages of kids in planning exhibits – not just age
• Consider expanding offerings to children ages 12-14 as this is a ground that is typically underserved

Exhibits/Programs
It is the goal of CMSJ to provide exhibits that will provide opportunities for direct, hands-on interaction with the environment as well as unstructured play. We would also like to focus on the history of St. Johns County by creating exhibits that are unique to our community. We hope to offer some exhibits that will change on a regular basis so as to provide new experiences for repeat visitors and plan to develop exhibits that can be loaned to schools in our area. We received a tremendous amount of feedback from Roundtable participants regarding exhibits and appreciate the enthusiasm and creativity on the topic. The following is a list of suggested exhibits and programs:

Suggested Exhibits

• Babies/Toddler play area including tactile items such as soft crawling spheres
• Child-size replica of the Castillo de San Marcos
• Shipwrecked! (demonstrating techniques of marine archeology perhaps with a partnership with Whitney Lab)
• Rock-climbing Wall
• Shrimping and Fishing Industry Exhibit
• Small theater assisted by high school drama students
• Railroads in Florida Exhibit (highlight Henry Flagler’s role; possibly funded by Florida East Coast Railways and/or CSX; including train replicas that can be played with demonstrating where the railways went through the state of Florida; large train engine that can be boarded, manipulated; Regina Pineda’s husband is transportation engineer)
• Musical Instruments from different cultures
• Technology Exhibit with digitized activities (possibly with support of Grumman\Airport)
• Medical Exhibit which emphasizes healthful life style
• Weather Exhibit which demonstrate hurricanes, droughts, nor’easters
• Native American-Timucuan Heritage Exhibit which allows kids dress up like them and do what they did on a daily basis; recreate a typical village campsite and housing for children to play in; a related program could be to make a drum out of gourd grown in our garden)
• Hispanic Heritage Exhibit: focus on the founding by Spanish explorers; St. Augustine is oldest continuously occupied settlement in the United States
• Black Heritage Exhibit: highlight the first free slave community; civil rights movement; possible contacts: Diane Chase, Errol Jones, Carrie Johnson, David Nolan, Karen Harvey, Janie Price, black educators)
• Water Play Area with waist high tables, boats, bridges, etc.
• Water Sports Exhibit: surfing, rowing, kayaking (possible sponsor: Aqua East Surf Shop)
• Music Exhibit with giant piano like in the movie “Big” (Schoenberg Piano Co. to sponsor)
• “Under the Sea” Exhibit: create underwater environment with components that can be manipulated
• Machines Exhibit: provide child-sized diggers and bulldozers and tractors that they can manipulate and dig with (Ring Power to sponsor)
• Transportation Exhibit: focus on transportation through the ages: horse and carriages; pedaling bicycle to generate power demonstrating oil not only energy source; automobiles, trains; how an engine works; tie in to Daytona racing culture
• Local Agriculture Exhibit: Highlight the contributions of area farmers; play farm with animals and crops; tractor exhibit, with adjacent working garden and greenhouse, highlights the contributions of the SW area more (Hastings, Bunnell, Spuds)
• Bugs! Feature a huge wall with an ant farm/colony wall size to watch them work; bees at work; Pesticides-what happens when we use them and how they affect environment
• Community Garden
• Skeleton riding a bicycle
• Area Wildlife Exhibit: focus on what species are native and live in this area; demonstrate their interrelatedness to the habitat and how we affect that habitat; show problems/consequences
• Marketplace: venue where kids make selections; exchange money for goods
• Marine Science Exhibit with partnership and tie-in with Whitney Lab at Marineland
• St. Johns River Exhibit: Focus on ecology and hydrology of our unique river system; note that massive study of the river is being conducted and could be helpful
• Avionics Exhibit: with flight simulators; climb on a real plane; sponsored or partnered with Grumman, Galaxy Aviation (St. Augustine Airport FBO) and/or Embry Riddle Flight School
• Space Exploration Exhibit: NASA being nearby is of great interest; might be a resource
• Geology of our Area Exhibit
• Archaeology Exhibit: Big focus in St. Augustine; with city archaeologist; show kids how archaeologists approach their work; what they typically find in this area; and how they classify it; participate in dig for artifacts
• Have kids give input on what they would like to see at the museum
• Hands-on artwork
• Blacksmith work-history
• Electricity (FPL Sponsorship?)
• Bridge Engineering (Bridge of Lions)
• Puppet play
• Aquarium
• Apple store (technology)
• Dramatic Play with historical reference to people of this area (Spanish Colonial; Native Americans; Minorcans; etc.); transition through historical periods
• Costumes/Dress-Up
• Sections/rooms relating to different professions (vet, doctor, nurse, news reporter, police)
• Natural Resources/Recycling; Greening of America; LEED Green Building
• Bird watching; birds native to northeast Florida
• Living museum (Crookshank); kids make their own presentations
• Hurricane exhibit; beach erosion
• Focus on Florida Animals

Suggested Programs

• Science fair and project camps (like Ithaca, NY science museum)
• Hands-on science projects such as making coquina stone, creating a steam engine (contact Jeanne Teliaferre)
• Keep in mind FCAT standards when developing programs
• Create-Your-Own-Book Workshop
• Creative Writing Workshop
• Create-a-Newspaper Workshop (St. Augustine Record to sponsor)
• Photography Workshop using digital technology (contact Karen Coker)
• Art Programs (supported by our vibrant community of local artists)
• Artist Demonstrations
• Story Time (from storytelling groups as well as books read by volunteers; develop regular convenient schedule)
• Percussion Studio Workshop
• Building from trash (reusing, repurposing trash); like at the Denver museum where kids make objects/animals from recycled containers
• Maze through a trash dump; kids reach end of dump, clean up and then trash is dumped on them again; demonstrates waste, encourages recycling
• Exhibits in a box (Lightner)
• Collaborate with libraries; tie exhibit concept to a book; School Library Media Center

Funding/Support
Support, both financial and otherwise, is vital to the continued development of CMSJ. Roundtable participants suggested several corporate and individual sources of support, as well as general thoughts related to funding. These suggestions included:

Corporations

• CSX Transportation
• Florida Power & Light
• Crayola Co.
• Tensolite
• All banks
• Car dealership
• Luhrs
• Northrup Grumman
• Ginn Organization
• Ring Power
• Florida Rock Industries
• Publix/Winn Dixie/Peterbrooke

Foundations

• Weaver Family Foundation

General Notes Relating to Funding

• Launch an “Adopt an Exhibit” Campaign to match exhibits with sponsors or recruit sponsors for an exhibit that doesn’t have a natural match-up
• Host “Raise the Museum” parties to publicize and raise funds
• Create Public Service Announcement that can run on all local stations
• Do interviews on local talk shows (radio and TV)
• Approach church outreach groups to spread the word
• Notify obituary editor at the St. Augustine Record that if someone dies and does not have a charity of choice for donations, CMSJ needs funds
• Study major donors for Flagler Hospital, Flagler College, other Children’s Museums in state of Florida, Museum of Science & History in Jacksonville for leads on possible donors
• Develop and use any political connections we have (Dr. Proctor)
• Ask key people with good connections to host fundraisers
• Sell tiles on the wall of museum; let kids design tiles
• Go to Country Clubs to make presentations

Community Partnerships

CMSJ also plans to look to the community for support. Roundtable participants offered the following thoughts on community partnerships:

• St. Augustine High School’s Academy of Arts students and faculty
• St. Johns River Water Management District
• Create Flagler Internship Programs (don’t just limit it to education majors; there are areas of interest to many different majors and programs including graphic and fine arts, marketing, business management, etc.)
• Churches in Hastings; Sheriff’s Department are good venues for awareness
• Youth Resource Officer (Coleman)
• Police Athletic League
• West Augustine American Legion (Kids Zone Van)
• Council on Aging (intergenerational liaison – Liz)
• Florida National Guard
• Look for an association of SJC art teachers

Summary
The Board of the Children’s Museum of St. Johns and volunteer committees will use the ideas and suggestions presented at these sessions during all phases of development of the museum. They welcome your continued input and feedback.

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