Fairbanks Children’s Museum celebrates first year in new home

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FCM photo of kids playing
Kids at play inside the Fairbanks Children’s Museum. | Photo courtesy of FCM, 2015.

One year ago, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum (FCM) opened its doors in its forever home at 302 Cushman Street inside the former Woolworth Building. This month, FCM blows out its first candle on January 31, 2016. Since opening in downtown Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum has hosted more than 37,000 visitors and counts nearly 1000 families as members.

“We have had an incredible year in our new location, and we are honored to be considered an integral and valuable resource for early childhood education in Fairbanks,” said Brenda Riley, Executive Director. “Our community values the fact that play is the most important part of learning for young children.” Riley also serves as the chair of the Early Childhood Development Commission for the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is one of the museum’s founders.

The Fairbanks Children’s Museum is a place for imaginative play and exploration. “It’s been so rewarding to watch all of the children grow and reach important milestones,” said Megan Olsen-Saville, Education and Outreach Manager. “We are so thankful for the love and support from our community.”

Brenda and Sue at the annual meeting
Brenda Riley and Sue Sprinkle pose for a photo during the Downtown Association of Fairbanks’ Annual Member Meeting in November, 2015.

While life is a series of moments, one moment that stands out to Olsen-Saville was almost one year ago exactly. It was January 31, 2015 at 6:05 PM, to be exact. “The museum had just closed its doors after a very successful first day being open,” she said. “It was chaotic, but the feelings we shared are hard to describe. We’d had 1,640 visitors that day and we were all so stoked!”

The Fairbanks Children’s Museum is full of interactive exhibits and creative outlets designed to bring out the curiosity in young minds, and a great way to explore the museum is during a self-guided field trip. Since its inception, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum has worked closely with many nonprofits, organizations, and schools.

“A great perk of the job is to watch kids grow and achieve important milestones at the museum,” said Olsen-Saville. “Success is observing a shy kid learn to communicate what he’s doing and make friends in the process,” she added.

byron and fcm staff_1_2015.03.06
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott toured the newly-opened Fairbanks Children’s Museum in March 2015.

One experience that stands out to museum staff involves two boys playing with dinosaurs, says Valerie Schleich, museum educator. One of the boys explains to the other everything he knows about a particular dinosaur. Two days later, the newly trained dinosaur expert shared his knowledge with a different child. “Being able to watch these kids grow and teach each other makes us all remember why play is an important part of growth and education,” said Schleich.

The Fairbanks Children’s Museum staff is looking forward to yet another year of fun-filled discovery, including new and improved summer camps and additional programs. The new year will also include a greater emphasis on community involvement with concerts, classes, and Super Saturdays events.

The museum will host a 1 Year Birthday Party on January 31. For that day, admission will be 50% off ($4) with a full day filled with cake, balloons, educational programming and lots of fun.