Imagining Workshops: Children’s Museum of Phoenix Dreams Big!


Wendie, one of our senior contributors, had the opportunity to join an Imagining Workshop with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix!

When you were a child, what do you remember most? Is it how carefree you felt when you ran barefoot through the grass or went “dry ice blocking” down the steep hills of Phoenix’s local parks? Maybe it was sledding down icy trails in the winter and building snow forts in the backyard? Was it digging in the dirt, looking for treasure with your excavators, or making sandcastles at the beach? When you lay in a field and looked up at the clouds as they passed, did you liken their various shapes to the animals you remember from the zoo? Maybe you remember riding bikes with your buddies, drinking out of the hose on those warm spring days, or creating endless sidewalk art with your myriad of chalk. Whatever your childhood held, hopefully, it included serenity and laughter. (If not, please know I hold space for you in my heart for any pain that might have otherwise invaded those precious years).

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix is a place where childhood whimsy and creativity shine. Their website states, “The Museum’s exhibits are thoughtfully designed to be unique, to arouse curiosity, and to engage the minds, muscles, and imaginations of our visitors.” To continue to promote and expand on these objectives, Kate Wells, CEO of the Children’s Museum, invited a diverse group of stakeholders from various backgrounds, professions, and interests to brainstorm how to wisely use a $5.37 million dollar bond to renovate over 27,0000 square feet of space. This includes existing underutilized space and/or reimagining how to better use the additional space within the walls of the century-old historic Monroe School building on Seventh Street and Van Buren. Collectively, we had dozens of participants with one goal in common–to promote an idyllic childhood that evokes laughter, joy, imagination, and fun, fostering a sense of inclusivity and community.

Upon arrival, we were given a tour of the facilities. The word “imagine” was written in cursive on one of the skeletal walls that longs to be made into something magnificent. Children were running around, and squeals of delight echoed through the three-story structure. Once upstairs, a lovely spread of pastries and snacks and a warm welcome from the “Imagining Workshops” team members, including consultant Stephanie Small and design expert Kim Lyon, greeted us. To help us relax and get acquainted with our creative sides, Frank Thompson, Founder of the Arizona Rhythm Connection (AZRC), facilitated a professional drum circle for participants. He engaged everyone with humor and the opportunity to let loose and open our minds as he led us with cadence, intention, and smiles. From there, we worked in groups at our tables to understand and reimagine the childhood experience. We compared past childhoods with our current children and those we envisioned for the future. We were challenged to pick our top five character traits that we believe are foundational for learning and growing. (Some favorites were empathy, love, confidence, creativity, and teamwork). We discussed how our occupations (chefs, writers, teachers, first responders, caregivers, etc.) and upbringing could influence the direction of the Museum’s offerings. We played a fun rendition of “Musical Chairs” as we scoured the room, seeing how we might build upon some ideas, programs, hopes, and dreams we could envision in the space.

From thoughts of astronomy and aviation exploration to time machine availability to a real working Barbie Dream House that let you design rooms to a Fire House that walked you through essential safety tips complete with a fire pole to a retro arcade meets Virtual Reality room where multigenerational groups could collectively come and hang out, to learning about Indigenous People Groups, storytelling, a musical theater, a free preschool and wellness clinic for low-income families, an expansive farm-to-table restaurant, and more ways to implement inclusivity and catering to families and friends and the community at large.

Amazing things are happening in Phoenix. Let your voice and ideas be heard if you have not done so. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix desires and welcomes community input. We have a real chance to equip the next generation with opportunities to gain experience and foster creativity, innovation, and inspiration more than we ever dreamed possible. Consider participating in upcoming Imagination Workshops to make this the best hands-on Museum Phoenix has ever seen!


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