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Chapel Hill's Kidzu turns 4

The children's museum on Franklin Street turns four this weekend. And its fans have a lot to celebrate.

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Kidzu Museum
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
Kidzu Children's Museum has a lot to celebrate this weekend.

It's turning 4. It's pulling in more visitors every year ... 34,000 last year ... despite the sour economy. And it is working on a public-private partnership with the town of Chapel Hill to finally expand the museum, which sits on Franklin Street just down the street from Morehead Planetarium.

"There's a lot to celebrate and it will be even more so next year," Tina Clossick, Kidzu's director of operations and programs, told me. "From here on out, there's just going to be really big things for us to celebrate. This is definitely a momentous year for us."

Kidzu opened in March 2006 with the help of dozens of community volunteers. At first it featured traveling exhibit. In 2008, it opened its "Kidzoom: The Power of Creativity." It's a hands-on, very interactive museum best for babies to eight-year-olds. Kidzu regularly offers special events and often works with other Orange County attractions and groups (including Ackland Art Museum and the Siena Hotel) on programs.

Right now, the museum sits in a 2,700-square-foot storefront. But leaders have been working to expand for a while.

In November, Chapel Hill officials agreed to give the property on the Wallace Parking Deck rooftop, worth $4 million, to create a larger, permanent home for the museum. The space is five times the size of the current museum and also includes outdoor space. Kidzu plans to raise another $6 million to $7 million for construction and exhibits. Plans are for the expanded museum to open in about three years, Clossick said.

Read more about Kidzu's plans on the site newkidzu.org.

On Sunday, the museum will celebrate with an anniversary party. Admission is free (as it always is on Sundays thanks to a grant from Durham Regional Hospital) from 1 to 5 p.m. You'll find active games including limbo, hopscotch, exercise cubes, crazy bucket toss and more from 1 to 3 p.m. At 4 p.m., there will be free healthy snacks and some birthday cake (while supplies last).

Kidzu also has announced some of its other events this month ...

* Celebrate National Reading Month from 4 to 5 p.m. March 17 with Kidzu and Toots and Magoo in a fun-filled workshop where children combine art and story by decorating and binding their own books to fill with original stories and illustrations. The creativity continues: Parents, if you're feeling crafty, Toots and Magoo offers creative workshops for adults too, taught by local artists. The fee is  $12 per child/adult pair (ages 4-9). Please no younger siblings at this event. Space is limited and prepaid registration is required.

* Attend a story time reading with fun and educational activities in English and Spanish at 1:30 p.m. March 21. Following each reading we will host a craft that will be tied to the story and theme. No additonal fees or registration required. Geared to kids ages 4-7. For more information call Kidzu at 919-933-1455.

* Make pizza in a collaborative event at the Siena Hotel from 4 to 5 p.m. March 23. Kids will decorate their own personal pizzas while learning about pizza making from Il Palio Ristorante's Executive Chef Adam Rose. Space is limited and prepaid registration is required. The fee is $12 per child (ages 4-8).

Call Kidzu at 933-1455 for more details about the events and to register for the programs scheduled for March 17 and March 23.


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