Imagine if all children in Doña Ana County had access to a children’s museum. A treehouse area with a light table, a wall of sounds, an imaginative play area, and a workshop. A place where parents and caregivers can access resources they need and children can explore the world through a microscope. A garage area where families can engage in a giant pneumatic scarf wall and mechanical gears to investigate. Now imagine if all families could engage and learn from meaningful STEAM activities while bolstering family relationships regardless of where they live in the county and what resources they have.
Ngage New Mexico is spearheading the ambitious project of Vamos Niños: Play to Learn Mobile Children’s Museum that will travel around Doña Ana County. Our theory of change is that young children with access to quality Early Childhood Education (ECE) experiences are equipped with a strong foundation that can powerfully affect their development, increasing opportunities to thrive in school and life. “The Vamos Niños project is exciting because it’s a creative concept that came from the Doña Ana Early Childhood Education Coalition. It will be a way to take hands-on learning and fun to families where they are, and at the same time uses the museum as a literal vehicle to connect families to early childhood supports and services” says Lori Martinez, Executive Director of Ngage NM.
Vamos Niños will be housed in a converted toy hauler RV. Ngage NM and the Children’s Museum Committee are partnering with Sightworks, an exhibit fabrication company in Albuquerque. The interpretive planning process is now complete and will be followed by exhibit design and fabrication for Vamos Niños. Kimmi Cravens, the Museum Development Coordinator at Ngage NM, shared, “It is so exciting to see the designs for the mobile museum come together. The team at Sightworks did an incredible job of bringing together all of the ideas from the Children’s Museum Committee and creating an interpretive plan for a space that will provide play-based learning for kids and help connect families to their resources.” The volunteer Children’s Museum Committee comprises over 20 community members and includes retired educators, early childhood service providers, and community leaders working in various industries. During the interpretive planning process, Sightworks fine-tuned the goals, values, and strategies to be implemented into the planning and design of the mobile unit; the next step is to design and create the exhibits, which will challenge and excite our youngest minds.
Vamos Niños will impact the delivery of ECE across the county, especially in rural areas affected by transportation issues, bringing quality interactive learning opportunities to communities with less access. Vamos Niños will include a resource center to inform families of resources that could benefit them and will travel with other mobile organizations bringing a caravan of services and programs to a broader underserved audience. This project will increase knowledge of and access to ECE services and programs and increase family engagement and experiences through play-based learning for families who otherwise may not have the opportunity.
Studies show that children learn through play and interaction. The interpretive plan explains that during play-based learning activities, children test ideas and roles and act out scenarios and ideas about how the world works. The mobile children’s museum will provide an informal learning environment to promote play, exploration, experimentation, social interaction, and activities that stimulate imagination and creativity. The museum committee has stated that the exhibits and activities of Vamos Niños should serve the “whole child – addressing their physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.” New Mexico Early Learning Guidelines and the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework have been utilized in the planning of exhibits and activities for the mobile children’s museum.
Ngage is grateful for the support of our community, and we can’t do this without you! The Vamos Niños project has received monetary support from Walmart Community Giving, Western Sky Community Care, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Daniel’s Fund, Federal Congressional Allocation Funds, and generous community members passionate about this project. “We have had incredible support to get to this point, but we are now looking to the community to help take this plan from concept to reality.” Kimmi Cravens explains, “We need to raise an additional $215,000 to get Vamos Ninos rolling in Doña Ana County and are looking for individuals and companies in our community to step forward and help invest in the build-out.” Contact Kimmi Cravens, the Museum Development Coordinator with Ngage New Mexico- Kimmi@NgageNM.org to learn more about the project, join the museum committee, or explore other contributing ways to get involved.
Candace Cichuniec, Special Projects Coordinator