Muncie Origins: local museum boasts interactive learning since 1975

<p>The Muncie Children&#x27;s Museum located in downtown Muncie. <strong>Reagan Allen, DN File</strong></p>

The Muncie Children's Museum located in downtown Muncie. Reagan Allen, DN File

Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.

Walking into the doors of the Muncie Children's Museum, you're greeted by Laura, the front desk assistant who welcomes you to a place full of laughter and fun for all ages. You give her $6 and the rest of the day is yours to frolic through the hours of fun and excitement that awaits on the two floors in the museum.

After more than 40 years of growth and play, the museum is just as fun as it was in 1975, when it all started. Four moms created the museum as a way for the children in Muncie to learn through fun.

The Muncie Children's Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is located right next to the convention center downtown. It is only a 10-minute car or bus ride away from campus. 

The mission is to create a safe, creative, interactive and educational environment for all ages. 

The managing director of the museum, Kynda Rinker, said the main goal is for children to come to the museum and utilize the exhibits and play areas as learning tools, while having so much fun it doesn't feel like learning.

From a fake Marsh grocery store and kitchen to a red tractor to sit and ride on, there are a variety of interactive exhibits and areas for children and adults to explore. 

Although it may be called a children's museum, the goal is for anyone of any age to enjoy their time there, which is why the staff encourages parents to explore with their children and also welcomes people of any age. 

There are live animals, such as rabbits and snakes that are shown in animal shows, and craft time for children to make something and take it home with them. 

Two of the most popular exhibits are the Peg and Ant Walls. 

The Peg Wall, situated right next to the Ant Wall, is similar to a giant Lite-Brite. You take colorful pegs and plug them into the wall to create a picture.

The Ant Wall, originating in the very first year the museum was built, takes up an entire center wall where anyone can climb through tunnels in the wall that simulate an ant colony. Those who use it can learn ant jobs and how ants live and create different pathways.

There are also play areas, such as a play stage and a reading nook where parents can sit and read with their children.

Ball State students are always welcome at the museum, especially for employment and volunteering.

Students and faculty have actually helped the museum before, by creating the Tot Spot for children five and under for an immersive learning project. 

Rinker has nothing but positive things to say about how working at the museum has impacted her life.

"I've been here a long time," she said. " I work mainly in the office but that's OK because when I do have a moment to come out on the floor and watch the children play — it tears me up a bit because they love it here. We have many children who cry when they have to leave and that makes me so excited because it means were doing our duty for the community."

College students can become educators at the museum and work with people of all ages while also helping plan birthday parties and field trips.

Mercedes Hoover, who graduated from Ball State in 2016, liked that working at the museum allowed her to give back to the community.

"It's a super cool and valuable experience to be able to work here. You get to help give children gain an experience that they might not get to have anywhere else in the Muncie community," Hoover said.

Volunteering is also a big part of the children's museum, and they encourage people from the community and college students to come and volunteer. The museum works with Ball State's Student Voluntary Services, giving students the chance to monitor and get credit for volunteer hours. 

In addition to its regular exhibits, the museum often hosts events for the community — it hosted the Ball State football team last week, and the team members taught football skills and how to score touchdowns on and off the field.

On March 18, the Muncie Ballet Company will host an event to teach dance and acting. 

Many of the events the museum hosts fall on the third Saturday of each month, when admission is free.

Michelle Logan, a mother of four small children, knows her first trip to the museum won't be the last.

"It's definitely a place I hope to take my kids again," she said. "It's so awesome to find a cute museum like this in a small area like Muncie."

The Muncie Children's Museum is an educational, but fun destination for children of any age and adults who want to feel like kids again. 


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