Santa Fe Children’s Museum
Heidi Heidgerken uses a pair of scissors to cut flaps into a folded piece of paper. The wind tunnel reaches up toward the ceiling and is surrounded by buckets of gravity-defying trinkets. Behind her, the wall is painted with a brachiosaur or a barapasaurus, some sort of long-necked and crested dinosaur. The light from the hanging lamp shines on the mural like a blazing sun. Heidgerken releases her constructed aircraft into the wind tunnel and it is propelled up and out, and left to spiral gently to the blue and yellow checkered floor.
Interactive stations decorate the The Santa Fe Children’s Museum. In one corner, a circle of pillows surround two chairs. The wall displays a quote from Dr. Seuss. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”
While at the Museum, children can explore a variety of hands-on activities that encourage learning, problem solving, design skills and patience. Volunteers from the Santa Fe community conduct each station. These volunteers are dedicated to one-on-one interaction with the children and parent visitors as they wander through each exhibit. “Curiosity is life-long learning,” Heidgerken says. Heidgerken is the museum’s programming and volunteer coordinator. “If you can get kids curious and engaged, you can strengthen their desire to learn.” The floor team takes a lead role in inspiring the children to participate in the many constructive activities it has to offer.
Aside from the exhibit positions, the museum has a need for volunteers in community outreach, garden assistance and even facilitating special activities. “Volunteering is an important facet of the community,” Heidgerken says. “Many wonderful organizations have been started by volunteers.” Some volunteer positions are specific in their needs, such as the gardening positions, which requires people to plant and tend to flowerbeds and conduct gardening activities. However, the special activities facilitation are an open call for people to come introduce their hobbies and artwork to children. “We are always looking for artists,” Heidgerken says. Each month, volunteers propose aspects of their work to formulate classroom style children’s activities. In the past, Santa Fe Recycle Art Show trash artist Liza Doyle hosted an activity in which the children re-appropriated trash into art. The idea behind this specific program is to enable children to replicate art in a way that is accessible at any age and can create a connection between the child and the medium.
While the Santa Fe Children’s Museum faced financial struggles in the recent past, outreach in the community and generous grants have enabled the museum to look forward to a strong and stable future. The many volunteers keep the engine running during the open hours and in the background, so that children in Santa Fe never lose access to an educational environment. “We are a fun, curious institution,” Heidgerken says. “Being a part of it, you will play and have fun and do a little bit of work, too.”
Potential volunteers must fill out an application in person and attend an orientation on the technicalities and spirit of the museum. Afterward, volunteers will receive special training in their new positions, learn how to utilize the exhibits and, for some, how to handle the museum’s pets, which include Pickle the red-eared slider turtle, and Cornelius, the copper-colored corn snake.