Imagine. Create. Discover.

Ben Lippert

Ben LippertReporter

If you find yourself traveling down Fifth Street through Brookings’ historic district, chances are you will see something that causes a double take. Outside the recently opened Children’s Museum of South Dakota stands Brookings’ very own “mama T-Rex” and her baby dino. It’s not quite like a Jurassic Park thrill ride, but spectators and drivers who are just passing by will look eye-to-eye with a 25-foot-tall replica tyrannosaurus and her 10-foot tall baby. As spectacular as the inanimate carnivores look, these are just part of the museum’s components.

The Larson Family Foundation is a non-profit organization in Brookings that helped build the groundwork to get the museum started. Maree Larson, the foundation’s executive director, said the children’s museum is a hands-on museum where visitors can learn through interaction.

“The museum is a welcoming, fun and entertaining environment which helps spark learning through imagination, creativity and discovery,” Larson said. “Exhibits, both inside and outside, are broad-based to include subjects in science, engineering, art, literature, culture, geography and history.”

Larson said the regional and community ties can be found in several of the museum’s exhibits.

One example is the museum’s music room. Here children have the chance to play alongside with SDSU’s marching band, the Pride of the Dakotas. The exhibit also features a mural of the band.

Another community tie is the museum’s partnership with the Northern Plains Institute for Informal Learning. The NPIIL is comprised of SDSU researchers who strive to improve their knowledge of informal learning environments and equip people to work in an informal learning field.

Many SDSU students work at the children’s museum.

Liesabeth Stiegelmeier is a sophomore social entrepreneurial studies major and part-time worker at the museum. She has lived in Brookings her whole life and said she is excited to be able to give back to the community she grew up in.

“I am a waitress at the museum and have just signed up to volunteer in the arts and crafts center,” Stiegelmeier said. “I am really stoked to start volunteering because it offers a chance for me to explore the museum more in-depth and play around in the studios.”

Court Clay is a sophomore undeclared major who works as a cook at the museum’s café. Clay said this job will allow her to fulfill her passions of cooking and interacting with people.

“I think the thing that I look forward to the most is the reaction of people when they see the museum,” Clay said. “It’s a great place, and it is amazing to see what they have created and how they turned an old school into a great museum.”

The renovated building was once an elementary school. It will continue to be a place of learning for young minds.

There are many things to do and see at the Children’s Museum. An extensive outdoor section comes complete with a mud kitchen, climbing hills and logs, different native plants and grass, underground tunnels and a dinosaur bone excavation pit.

Inside, the “KidStreet” exhibit features a number of role-playing activities. Kids can do activities from practicing grocery shopping, to reporting the news in front of an actual green screen. Other exhibits found throughout the museum include an art studio, a construction area and an extensive prairie exhibit.

“Imagine a House” is a real-world exhibit that invites children to explore the mechanism of house construction. It features “kid-sized” homes from different countries and other construction activities. Larson said exhibits like this are important for Brookings children.

“A children’s museum stimulates curiosity and creativity by providing children with opportunities for hands-on learning, key to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being,” Larson said. “Children’s museums are committed to serving the unique needs and interests of children by providing exhibits and programs that create a spark for discovery and lifelong learning.”

The Children’s Museum celebrated its grand opening last Sunday, Sept. 12 after four years of deliberating and constructing.

#1.1602882:2911126331.jpg:One of the first sights seen upon arriving at the children?s museum is the life-like Tyrannosaurus.:One of the first sights seen upon arriving at the children?s museum is the life-like Tyrannosaurus Rex. The dinosaur is one of many exhibits designed to allow children to participate in hands-on learning.:Collegian photo by Brigitte Norby#1.1602886:783212172.jpg:The new children?s museum mascot ?Kidoodle? eagerly greets children on opening day.:The new children?s museum mascot ?Kidoodle? eagerly greets children on opening day.:Collegian Photo by Aaron Stoneberger