Board of Directors
CHUCK ALBRECHT, TREASURER
President & CEO
Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union
PAUL DRANGE, CHAIR
Director of Regional Programs
ELLEN HAGLIN, SECRETARY
Owner & Director
Corporate Communications LINDAR Corporation/ Avantech/TRI-VEN
Executive Director Region Five
Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce
Regional Chief Nursing Officer
President & Founder
PETER OLSON, EX OFFICIO
Museum Project Director
WonderTrek Children’s Museum
QUINN SWANSON, SECRETARY
Happy Dancing Turtle
Early Childhood Coordinator
Pequot Lakes Schools
The idea of a children’s museum for North Central Minnesota has grown from an article in the Minnesota Precision Manufacturers Association (MPMA) trade publication in 2015. The article described a maker program at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (CMSM) in Mankato. Dr. Chad Coauette, President and CEO of Sourcewell in Staples, MN, came across the article. He, along with Paul Drange, Director of Regional Programs at Sourcewell, saw a connection with the many programs for children and youth offered in Region 5 that includes Cass, Crow Wing, Todd, Wadena, and Morrison Counties.
Starting To Plan
A planning group started meeting in 2016. They also invited Peter Olson, Executive Director at Knock, Knock Children’s Museum in Baton Rouge (LA) and former Executive Director at CMSM, to share insights into starting and opening a children’s museum.
During 2017, the planning group defined a broad vision for the museum, its focus, audience, and guiding principles.
Strategic Master Plan
To move the process forward, the group invited two Twin Cities area museum planners to facilitate a strategic master planning process. In early 2018 Jeanne Vergeront (Vergeront Museum Planning, Minneapolis) and Jim Roe (Jim Roe Museum Planning, St. Paul) engaged the planning team and community members in developing this plan.
This museum strategic master plan sets out the foundational ideas for planning and opening a museum. Starting with a vision, mission, and values and identifying the target audience, the plan summarizes relevant regional factors and influences that are likely to affect the museum. The plan also lays out a framework for the museum’s learning focus and values, and exhibit concepts and program directions that will be at the heart of the museum experience. Finally the plan proposes broad criteria for the site and facility and a set of action steps for moving forward in the next phase.
Sourcewell donates initial seed funding to the Children's Museum, which contracts museum planner, Peter Olson, as Museum Project Director. The children's museum is incorporated as of 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and the Founding Board of Directors meets for the first time in December of 2019 and approves by-laws, officers, and other formation activities.
Site planning begins and a major grant from the Minnesota Legacy Fund is secured to start delivering programming to children, families, and teachers across the region. In July, the children's museum hosts the Chamber's Business After Hours social mixer at Lum Park. In September, the children's museum hosts a small group of YMCA campers for a Playful Explorations program exploring nature play and loose part play at Lum Park. Soon after, Chris McEachron is hired as a full time program manager and begins planning for Covid-safe programming, including the creation of at-home Play Packets available to families free of charge.
Here We Go, Everywhere
The children's museum continues distributing play packets to families throughout the region with special attention to reaching children experiencing participation barriers. With the warmer summer weather and the addition of program specialists, the children's museum starts providing in-person hands-on activities throughout the region. By summer's end, the children's museum facilitated more than 100 in-person Playful Explorations programs. During the busy summer, site planning continued, and the name of the museum officially changed from Region 5 Children's Museum to WonderTrek Children's Museum.