Brookings, SD Home to Museum that Gives Kids a Sense of Place
The Larson family of Brookings loved to don costumes at Colonial Williamsburg, help scientists search for life in the ocean, and hike through national parks when their children were young. Those experiences helped Carmelle Larson Jackson come away with a vision—a way to share her love of play and learning with her own hometown.
In 2010, her vision turned into a real, energetic and magical place on the eastern South Dakota prairie for kids to play and learn—The Children’s Museum of South Dakota.
“The Children’s Museum of South Dakota provides a rich environment for hands-on learning and fun for children and their families,” Executive Director Kate Treiber said. “Our exhibits are broad based and include discovery in the areas of science, engineering, art, literature, music, culture, geography, and history. We have over 5,000 loose parts in our exhibit spaces thus creating a multitude of ways our guests can interact, imagine and discover.”
They also have the only permanent, full size, animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex on display in the United States. The dinosaur is 25 feet tall and 60 feet long. It lives in the outdoor prairie play area at the museum with Max, her baby—a young T. Rex.
In addition, kids of all ages can participate in educational programs in the building.
“Children of all ages are able to engage in a variety of educational programming including pottery, painting, theater, engineering, science, music and cultures around our world,” Treiber said. “Our educational workshops, studios and classes offer an engaging, inquiry based approach to learning. Our museum educators believe children are competent and capable individuals, and act as facilitators in the learning process as they pose questions.” They help children problem solve and create scenarios to help them imagine, discover and learn she said.
It’s a place where a family can spend an entire day playing, both inside and outside. And, they haven’t forgotten that kids get hungry. The restaurant, Café Coteau, is in a sunny, circular area of the museum. Butterflies, bunnies, birds and frogs dance overhead in giant mobiles while visitors dine on breakfast, snack and lunch items, including gluten free choices.
The menu of delicious, fresh and healthy food choices include pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches and a fabulous children’s menu. If visitors arrive early and want to eat first, breakfast sandwiches, omelets, and eggs from a local organic farm are all on the breakfast menu. The cafe is open from 8a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
“Our museum team hopes that the children and grown-ups who visit are able to create unique and meaningful experiences through play,” Treiber said. “We strive to inspire a ‘sense of place’ for our guests in order to discover who we are and where we’ve come from as the past and present come alive to tell the story of the crucial connection between the land and culture to our region.”