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Frankfort kids museum eyes ‘higher level’

AndersSweeney 2 Frankfort plays boexhibit KidsWork Children's Museum Frankfort Illinois Tuesday October 2 2012.  | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times

Anderson Sweeney, 2, of Frankfort, plays at the boat exhibit at the KidsWork Children's Museum in Frankfort, Illinois, Tuesday, October 2, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media

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Updated: October 15, 2012 8:43PM



The KidsWork Children’s Museum in Frankfort is making no small plans.

First off, the museum plans to stay in the village, at 11 S. White St., where it has leased space through 2014.

Over the next three to five years, board president Jay Walsh said, he wants to bring the museum to a “higher level,” to “enhance creativity,” by incorporating more science and technology into all exhibits and making them more interactive.

“As we become more established,” Walsh said, “we want to become the premier children’s museum in Will County.”

It seemingly is well on its way. In the past year, the museum has attracted 65,000 visitors from 27 states to its 6,700 square feet of exhibits in the Trolley Barn in Frankfort’s historic downtown district.

It’s a place where kids can let their imaginations go wild as they dig for dinosaurs, operate on a model of a human body, stage a play or learn to fish.

The museum, launched by a volunteer grass-roots effort, opened its doors in 2008 and has not strayed from its original mission: to be a “fun, safe place for kids to explore and be creative.”

Over two floors of exhibits, children can explore a career as a veterinarian, create a puppet show, learn to weave, and discover lights and mirrors. KidsWork also hosts birthday parties, field trips and special programs.

Getting the museum to the higher level Walsh envisions means generating more revenue for the nonprofit, through sponsorships and grants. To that end, Walsh is relying on new development director Jan Czarnik, of Matteson. She replaced Carol Schneider, now a board member.

“We’re excited to have her on board,” Walsh said.

Like many businesses in 2008, the museum faced unexpected challenges and changed gears, Walsh said.

“It made us all focus on what kind of museum we want to be. We want to be a place where kids can explore science and technology that they cannot get at home or school,” said the father of three young children.

To complement permanent exhibits, Walsh wants the museum to be ever-changing, to “keep it fresh,” he said.

Some of the museum’s goals for sponsorships and grants were achieved. Its partnership with Advocate hospitals, for example, resulted in a life-size “Operation” game at the museum.

Other revenue sources have dried up, Walsh said, but with the museum having established itself regionally, he plans to go after larger grants from corporations and foundations.

Optimism abounds.

“We have a strong board, with good direction and a focus on where we are and where we want to be,” Walsh said.

The children’s museum is open six days a week, and is closed on Mondays. Fall hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, visit www.kidsworkchildrensmuseum.org.



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