Led by Executive Director Jamie DeMent Holcomb, the North Carolina Children’s Museum, an evolution of Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill, is an experiential children’s museum with an emphasis on accessible early childhood learning and research. The NC Children’s Museum will have a 100 county reach of informal education for all learners – from children, youth, and families to educators and researchers. With KIETS support, Kidzu has been gathering statewide stakeholders to develop the vision of the NC Children’s Museum. By grounding the process in community needs and statewide expertise, the planning team has been able to develop the concept of a children’s museum with research at its core that will impact children, families, educators, and researchers throughout the state. While North Carolina has a number of museums across the state, there is no museum devoted solely to the youngest citizens and to researching the short and long-term impacts of informal learning on young children in all 100 counties of North Carolina. KIETS Trustees Dr. Betsy Bennett and Dr. Charles Coble serve on the board of Kidzu, a children’s museum located in Chapel Hill, NC. With their leadership and guidance, in FY 2022-23 support from KIETS enabled the planning process to continue, involving additional stakeholders with a range of expertise from across the state and overall southeast region of the country to further the concept of a statewide children’s museum.
Kidzu Children’s Museum is in the process of purchasing 45 acres at 510 Mt. Carmel Church Road in Chapel Hill for its new museum home. The property will be home to an early learning campus with indoor and outdoor programming for children – birth through teens, their caregivers, educators, and researchers. In addition to growing their physical footprint, Kidzu has been working with the State of North Carolina and the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources to become a state supported museum – the North Carolina Children’s Museum. Simultaneously, the digital campus of the NC Children’s Museum is being developed with an initial framework that is platform independent, and the museum is actively seeking private philanthropy with a digital partner to build the initial designs. Meetings with a diverse group of stakeholders in child development, healthy digital engagement, social emotional learning, and a survey of NC DPI State Learning Standards yielded both an overall concept for the learning space and specific learning modules. KIETS support allowed for weekly meetings and guided discussions on such topics as Avatars & Digital Identity, Addressing Community Needs, Digital Developmental Play & Learning, and Digital World building, resulting in a robust annotated bibliography of compiled of research related to online spaces for children, guiding principles, and the buildout of sample digital learning environment. KIETS support is also helping to engage additional stakeholders in order to further develop and implement the concept of a statewide children’s museum. Kidzu is also discussing opportunities for partnership and collaboration with the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership. Among the partners supporting the NC Children’s Museum initiative are the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, GlaxoSmithKline Ribbon of Hope, The Grable Foundation, and the Orange County Partnership for Young Children.