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Group works to open nature-inspired children's museum in southwest Wake County

Posted February 3, 2019 7:46 p.m. EST

Kirsten Pierce has always been interested in nature and outdoor learning. Even before Pierce and her husband, a landscape architect, welcomed their son almost five years ago, they talked about the benefits of nature play.

Those discussions only increased after their son was born. And that's when Pierce, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, decided to go all in on her passion and pursue her dream of opening a nature-inspired museum for kids in southwestern Wake County. In September 2017, Pierce created the mission statement and officially incorporated the Carolina Children's Museum, a nonprofit.

"Carolina Children’s Museum’s vision involves creating an engaging and safe environment where children can interact with others and learn directly through play and hands-on experiences," she tells me. "We focus on nature, healthy living, inclusiveness, sustainability and technology. Our goal is to help children become healthy and active members of the community. We want to encourage curious minds and set a precedent for eager learning in the future. In addition, we encourage children to reach their full potential as citizens by fostering understanding of positive environmental actions that have global impact."

Pierce has gotten a lot of support for her concept. And this year, she's moving forward on big plans to make it a reality. I checked in with Pierce to learn more about her concept and where she needs help. Here's a Q&A:

Kirsten Pierce, founder of Carolina Children's Museum

Go Ask Mom: What sparked the idea that this part of Wake County needed a children's museum? Why do you see a need?

Kirsten Pierce: We moved to Holly Springs in 2014 because of the opportunities we recognized in southwest Wake County for our son. However, with the steady growth of this area and the amount of young families, we quickly realized that we were truly lacking an indoor and outdoor hands-on play options. The community social media pages are always requesting more local kid-friendly options for this rapidly growing area and we thought that now was the perfect time to get started. As we have presented this concept to community members and their families, the most common reaction we have heard is “How soon can it get here?”

GAM: What kind of place do you envision for the museum? Why does nature play such a big part of it?

KP: We envision the outdoor space to be one that engages children with the environment in a unique way. We want to utilize the existing features of the land and plan play opportunities that feature those unique North Carolina traits. In the indoor space, our vision is to have it make you feel like you are outside when you walk in. Our goal is to celebrate North Carolina nature, using seasonal aspects as well as celebrating the uniqueness of North Carolina as a state.

We feel strongly that children need to be connected with nature. In this busy world, I worry that too much emphasis has been placed on scripted learning and screen-time and less on imaginative hands-on play in nature. Children need unscripted play and the benefits of playing in nature are pretty amazing. Nature also allows for fun inclusive play opportunities that resonate with a broad range of age groups and abilities.

Carolina Children's Museum to host event in April

GAM: You're working on fundraising now. What do you have planned?

KP: We are currently working on our 2019 calendar, but have a very fun spring coming up.

We have a fundraiser at Bombshell Brewing Company from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, April 5, where they will generously donate a portion of the proceeds to us. It is a very family and puppy friendly brewery. Music and a food truck will be there.

Our other big spring fundraiser is our second annual fairy garden party on Sunday, May 5. Last year, with the help of some amazing local sponsors, we converted the historic Leslie-Alford-Mims house in Holly Springs into a fairy garden. It was a huge success and we sold out.

We had food, face painting, fairy hair, games, crafts, dancing and lots of hands-on fun for the whole family. Tickets must be purchased in advance and details will be available soon. If you are interested in being a sponsor for this event please let us know.

We will also have a booth and will be bringing our mobile museum concepts to several Wake County Parks and Recreation events including Frog Fest, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 6; the Star Party on the evening of April 12; and the Long Leaf Festival on May 18.

Carolina Children's Museum to host event in May

GAM: Tell me about the support you've gotten so far.

KP: After incorporation, I established a board of directors and we have been working tirelessly to bring this concept to life. We have had so many local community members and business help us out with various fundraisers and events last year. We have received fabulous volunteer support from our local key clubs for various events that we participated in last year.

We had a local educator, Rachel Woods, owner of Dragonfly Nature Programs LLC generously volunteer her time in 2018 and provide free nature-classes to help give the community an idea of some of the offerings we hope to have for the museum. Rainbow Child Care Centers and Devils Ridge Golf Club generously donated space to us for our events last year since we are currently operating as a museum without walls.

In addition, we had so many generous donations last year that enabled us to get our 501c3, begin mobile museum concepts and really ramp up our community outreach efforts.

GAM: What are your goals for 2019? How can people help?

KP: Starting a children’s museum from scratch takes an incredible amount of effort. We need a lot of help. Our biggest goals this year are to continue community outreach, begin our capital campaign and find land. We are actively pursuing land opportunities in the southwest Wake County area.

We want the building design to respond to the land and are looking for any land connections or opportunities. We are also looking for assistance with building mobile museum exhibits, event and storage space donations, volunteers for events, assistance with grant writing, volunteer educators to provide additional environmental education classes and events as well as volunteers to assist with fundraising.

More information is on Carolina Children's Museum's website.

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