ISLA pilots new Kidzu Museum
Kidzu Children’s Museum gave a group of eager and energetic children the chance to test out the museum before it opens on Valentine’s Day.
Set to open on Friday, the families of Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition had the advance opportunity to test drive everything that makes Kidzu unique.
“We get to try everything out and see what works and what doesn’t work,” said ISLA vice president Jenice Ramirez. “We try to do as many field trips as possible in the community. This is a great partnership with Kidzu.”
Melanie Hatz Levinson, curator of design and exhibition for Kidzu, said that the new space provides room for more activities and exhibits when compared to the previous 105 E. Franklin St. site.
“We are so excited,” Levinson said. “We have a space that is over five times as large as our space was in University Square.”
While this site is larger than the last, it is smaller than the next. Levinson said that this site is temporary until the museum moves to a more permanent location atop Wallace Plaza.
Labeled a middle step, the new site will allow for incremental growth of offerings to the public and staff.
“This is our launch pad,” Levinson said. “This is our creative education laboratory where we get to figure out what will be in the permanent space.”
The families of ISLA were a part of the learning process for the launch pad.
A nonprofit organization based in Chapel Hill that works to provide a nurturing and safe environment for native Spanish speaking children, ISLA also aims to promote literacy in Spanish so children can transfer foundational literacy skills to improve their readiness for school.
Housed in St. Thomas More Catholic School, ISLA provides all of its services, including teaching English to parents, for free.
With signs in Kidzu posted in both English and Spanish, the museum adhered to the programs all-Spanish curriculum.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Ramirez. “I think being able to just free play is important with children, especially for children in pre-K through second grade.
“This is also allowing the children to play and be creative on their own,” she said. “They’re choosing what they want to do.”
The exhibits are for the full engagement of younger children and more creative engagement for older children while reinforcing STEAM concepts. Many of the decorations and interactive materials like building blocks and a chandelier made of plastic spoons were created by local people and Kidzu staffers.
Not so local is Maria Jesus Poch who is a fellow with Kidzu. The Chilean native read a “Clifford: The Red Dog” book to the families in Spanish in the cozy reading room beneath a handmade butterfly.
Kidzu reinforces many skills and introduces some like sustainability and creativity as a whole not just in the arts.
“We get to really launch our creativity as we serve, reflect and celebrate our community and we think this space allows us to do this,” Levinson said.