A Look Inside: Children’s Museum of Eau Claire

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 4:15 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - “I think what’s really unique about this building is the fact that we have trees holding it up, intact, structural round timbers.”

Bolder, better, bigger. The structure of the new Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is what catches your eye when you first step inside. Sugar Maple, Ash, and Douglas Fir are among the timber that CEO Michael McHorney says is at the heart of the first building in the world with this type of structural system.

“It really makes for a unique environment, kind of feels like a giant tree house for kids.”

“That sense of awe and wonder when they first walk through those doors, and what that does is it really opens their minds to learn and a lot of the learning that happens, it’s really disguised, how children first learn is through play,” says McHorney.

“Every exhibit is brought back something from the old museum as well... so we incorporated it into the design, Oreo the cow is back which I think will make a lot of children happy.”

McHorney says the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire provides a safe, inclusive environment for kids to learn and play with others their age. With interactive exhibits featuring farming to banking, health and fitness. The goal is for kids to grow now only socially but also academically while having fun.

“One of the things we heard consistently from kids is that they want to see a fire truck in the new museum. So we took the fire truck and incorporated it with our water table.”

Another goal for the museum exhibit, how can they help address community needs including mental health and childhood obesity.

“We came up with this fitness and nutrition exhibit so it’s as much about healthy activity, staying fit and nutrition as well so we’ll do a lot of cooking classes with families.”

“So we’re on 100% renewable energy operating from geo-thermal wells. We have 308 solar panels on the roof as well,” adds McHorney.

“One of our core values is doing the right thing. We’ve always had arts as part of the children’s museum environment, we added fitness and nutrition as well and now we’re thinking sustainability will become that third core program pillar and trying to do some programming around that.”

“And so this is one of our pre-school classrooms, we’ll have five different classrooms, two are for pre-school age, and the other are child development center age.”

When the museum becomes fully operational, other offerings include pre-school classrooms and day care.

“Birth to five years are the most critical years for a child, there’s no arguing that. And I think the more that we can put into those early years, later in life we’re going to be dealing with less as a society,” says McHorney.

Logistically, the children’s museum will give city residents and visitors yet another reason to make downtown a destination.

“Certainly, Pablo Center, that happened, the library happened, and now look at all the things around us. I forget all the housing units going up. This area around us, we just wanted to be the icing on the cake if you will for this district.”