The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry is a place where caregivers can let the kids burn off some energy: where children can zip from activity to activity - crafting a masterpiece in the Art Room or filling their pint-sized shopping carts with pretend fruits and vegetables. But these activities are more than just fun ways to spend the day. Play-based learning is a proven key to early childhood brain development, helping children to build vocabulary, problem-solving, critical-thinking, math and literacy skills.
And yet for some families, a day at the museum is out of reach. As a nonprofit organization, the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry has created a number of programs to ensure all children in the Charleston area have the opportunity to experience play.
"No family should ever be turned away from important early learning opportunities because of economic issues," says Executive Director Nichole Myles. "We want to remove barriers and create a welcoming, safe environment where all children and their caregivers can learn through play."
Leaders at the museum recognize a very real opportunity gap exists for under-resourced children. Without access to additional learning opportunities and experiences, they fall behind their peers.
According to “Closing The Opportunity Gap Report,” higher-income children enter kindergarten more than one full year ahead of their under-resourced counterparts with some 1,400 more hours of developmental time with parents, more personalized experience and $5,700 more of annual parental expenditures such as books, trips and music lessons. Higher-income children also have heard 30 million more words than their poorer counterparts.
And this is just kindergarten.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is doing what it can to close that gap and give under-resourced children the chance to have those same experiences and enrichment opportunities.
The museum works with expectant teenage mothers at Florence Crittenton Programs of SC, hosting a Baby Scholars program that, in part, conveys the importance of language and literacy on children’s school readiness and how to promote these skills. These at-risk moms also receive a free membership to the Children’s Museum.
The museum has partnered with Charleston County School District Head Start to teach hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) classes using their unique play-based method right in the classroom. Teachers receive lesson plans to better incorporate STEM projects into their classrooms.
"Early exposure to STEM and arts-based learning is critical to lifelong learning and future job opportunities", Myles explains. This is a 20-year plan. Starting children off with the best foundation today will help them be tomorrow’s leaders, problem-solvers and creators. Instilling these skills ensures that employers like Boeing and Volvo will find a qualified workforce in the Charleston area and not feel the need to recruit employees from other areas.
To make sure that admission fees are not a burden for some families, the Children’s Museum participates in the Institute of Museum and Library Services Museums for All program. Individuals and families with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and a valid photo ID can visit the museum for just $1 (which covers up to six people).
Even for families without an EBT card, the museum makes sure that there are no barriers for entry. That’s why each of the 16 branches of the Charleston County Public Library has several museum passes that library card holders can check out for a week at a time. Myles says there’s often a waiting list for people eager to use the free pass.
On the second Friday of each month from May to October, the Children’s Museum hosts Free Family Fridays with free admission from 4-7 p.m.
By implementing these programs, the museum is working to provide all children with the same opportunity to visit the museum and take advantage of its programs, Myles says.
“If they want to come, we want them to be able to come,” she says.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is located at 25 Ann St. in Charleston and open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit them online at exploreCML.org or call (843) 853-8962.
Sponsored by: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry