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Stormont Vail Health and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center partner to provide childcare for frontline health care workers
Stormont Vail Health and the Kansas Children's Discovery Center are proud to announce a new partnership to get children back into the museum building, which has been closed since March. Stormont Vail will rent the building on weekdays beginning this Thursday, October 8 to provide no-cost childcare to Stormont Vail team members. The outdoor area of the museum, which opened in July, remains open to the public for timed, ticketed entry seven days a week.
This partnership gets children in the building again, joyfully playing, learning, and having fun,” said Dene’ Mosier, president/CEO, Discovery Center. “As health care workers care for us, we will provide the perfect place for their children by providing a safe and enriching place for playful learning. In this building, every experience is designed to help young learners thrive. While we continue to work towards reopening our indoor space safely to the public, we are excited Stormont Vail can offer this safe experience for a consistent group of children of their staff.”
“Thank you to the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center for stepping up during these times to provide some peace of mind to our team members,” said Darlene Stone, senior vice president and chief experience officer, Stormont Vail Health. “Partnerships like these allow our team members to focus on providing high-quality care to the patients and communities we serve while their child is cared for in a safe and secure environment.”
The nonprofit children’s museum is privately funded and relies primarily on admissions and other earned income to operate 15,000 square feet of indoor science, art and play exhibits and a 4.5 acre outdoor adventure area. During the pandemic, the Discovery Center has struggled to redesign indoor exhibits experiences in such a way that children from the public can visit safely in large enough numbers to cover operation costs. The museum's outdoor area will remain open and visitors from the public will never come in contact with children enrolled in the child care program. This arrangement is temporary, and the museum is still actively working towards returning to full operation.
The program will be staffed by Stormont Vail. Stormont Vail employs over 5,300 team members and is actively seeking to add new team members to join the team. Career opportunities can be found on the Stormont Vail website at https://www.stormontvail.org/career-opportunities/.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it safe to have child care inside the museum but not open to the general public?
During normal museum operation, large groups of children and families from all over the region freely explore indoor exhibit spaces. Most visitors are under five, with a large percentage under age two, for which masks are not recommended. This experience differs significantly from a child care program like that offered by Stormont Vail, in which the same group of school-age children visit each day, following daily health screenings while adhering to social distancing and mask guidelines, enforced by child care providers.
When will the museum open to the public?
The museum does not have a reopen date. It has been difficult to choose to close our building during summer, which is typically our busiest season, but we will not reopen the museum until we believe we can do so in a way that is safe for our community, visitors, staff and volunteers. The purpose of a children's museum is to allow children to move freely between exhibits and engineer their own experiences.
As a high touch, hands-on facility, we have evaluated each exhibit and experience within the museum with the help of public health experts. At least two exhibits: science, which relies on compressed air, and grain, which has thousands of touch points, cannot be opened safely at this point in the pandemic. Procedures in build and art exhibits must be significantly modified. All exhibits will require substantially more oversight, cleaning and maintenance, significantly increasing operating costs.
The museum is a privately funded nonprofit organization that receives no ongoing government funds, and must have the confidence it can sustainably operate before opening. At this time, allowing use of our outdoor area for the public and indoor area for child care is the safest option for our community and most sustainable path forward for our museum. We miss our visitors, and hope to fully open as soon as possible!
I’m a Discovery Center member, what is happening with my membership?
The Discovery Center is still working towards returning to full operation but for now, memberships may be used for unlimited outdoor play sessions. Memberships are a vitally important source of financial support for the museum, especially now. We are truly grateful for your understanding, trust and support during these exceptional times.
What is the Discovery Center doing during this pandemic?
The Discovery Center building being closed has not stopped us from serving our community. We continue to reach out as a community anchor to support families.
- The outdoor adventure area is open seven days a week for safe play. After every play session, staff sanitizes high-touch surfaces across the 4.5 acre area. In addition, over 50 movable toys, including bikes and wagons, are removed from the play area and rotated for fully sanitized sets prior to the next play session. The outdoor adventure area also has a new giant game board for socially distanced chess and checkers, texture kitchen, and mister for hot days with more exhibits planned.
- 150 Discovery at Home videos have reached almost 400,000 views, with educational activities highlighting key child development information. Activities include Spanish-language Descubriendo en Casa programs.
- The Discovery Center has delivered over 350 free learning kits to low-income and at-risk families. Staff called hundreds of KCDC Cares member families in the early weeks of the pandemic to ask about their needs. Then brought activity bags to their homes using contactless delivery.
- The museum created free online programming for families with children who have an autism spectrum disorder. Staff from monthly Puzzle Pieces events recorded video resources for children. On-site play sessions started again in September outdoors with limited capacity.
- Discovery Kindergarten helped kids get ready for school. Camp Kindergarten was offered online using Zoom to connect parents and students with teachers. Sessions were offered in English and Spanish. A resource guide was mailed to participating caregivers.
- Medical Warriors visits have continued for medically fragile children or those battling life-limiting illnesses who need private play time. The program is needed now more than ever, with increased isolation for immune-compromised children.
- Discovery Baby has helped first-time parents navigate birth and parenthood during the pandemic.
About Stormont Vail Health
Stormont Vail Health is a nonprofit integrated health system that has served the health care needs of Kansas for more than 130 years. Stormont Vail has been recognized as a Magnet ® organization since 2009 by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. It is composed of Stormont Vail Hospital, a 586-bed acute care hospital, and Cotton O’Neil Clinic, a multi-specialty physician group with more than 500 providers, including more than 250 physicians. Nearly 5,300 employees provide care and support services for patients in the hospital and 35 other locations, including the Cotton O’Neil Heart Center, Cancer Center, Diabetes & Endocrinology Center, Digestive Health Center, Pediatrics clinics and ten regional primary care clinics. Stormont Vail Health is committed to its mission of improving the health of the community by being a national leader in providing compassionate, high quality and efficient integrated care through collaboration that results in a healthier community. For more information about Stormont Vail and Cotton O’Neil, visit stormontvail.org. For breaking news and videos, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In the News: Discovery Center invaluable amid pandemic
Ximena M. Garcia, Special to Gannett Kansas, Topeka Capital-Journal
August 30, 2020
Play must be included in the formula for successful navigation of this unprecedented time. We have to allow children the opportunity to express themselves through play.
The impact on children will be one of the most important and consequential outcomes of the pandemic. We need to make sure they experience developmentally appropriate learning.
Kansas is fortunate to be home to a nationally recognized leader in the children’s museum field, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. The Discovery Center has been making meaningful, impactful change in Kansas children’s lives since it opened eight years ago.
In the News: Discovery center welcomes kids back to play outdoors
Brianna Childers and Evert Nelson, Topeka Capital-Journal
July 9, 2020
After months of being closed and finding new ways to connect and educate children, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center has begun its phased reopening. Children and their parents were welcomed Thursday into the children’s museum’s outdoor play area where they rode bikes, played on a pirate ship and explored the outdoors.
In the News: Kansas Children’s Discovery Center reopens for outdoor play
Doug Brown, WIBW
July 9, 2020
The Kansas Children's Discovery Center welcomed back visitors on Thursday, July 9. The facility at Gage Park re-opened its outdoor adventure area, a four and a half-acre nature classroom. To limit capacity visitors must purchase tickets in advance for a 2-hour play session. The center will hold two sessions a day, closing in between for sanitizing. While the indoor areas remain closed, families were happy to be outdoors!
In the News: Kansas Children’s Discovery Center opens outdoor adventure center to public
Keith Horinek, KSNT
July 9, 2020
The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center started a phased reopening Thursday with their outdoor adventure area for timed, ticketed entry.The 4.5 acre play space is a certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom and features a pirate ship, treehouse, music garden, stream, bikes, wagons, ninja challenge course, zipline, giant sandbox and more.
Discovery Center Reaches Out to Families in Need, Local Businesses Pitch In
The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center is still closed, but is reaching out to serve families in need with the help of local business partners. The nonprofit children’s museum recently began delivering free educational toys and science kids to at-risk families in Topeka, and launched online resources for children with an autism spectrum disorder and Spanish-speaking families.
In the past two weeks, 104 children received surprise, free deliveries of educational toys, science kits and other items to help them learn at home. These children, whose families all have discounted Discovery Center memberships based on need, each received a bag designed just for them by the Discovery Center education team. This program will continue throughout the summer. The bags were sponsored by the Devlin Family and Vaughn Pediatric Dentistry.
A new website offers at-home activities and resources specifically designed for children with an autism spectrum disorder and their families. The website is an online extension of the museum’s Puzzle Pieces program. When the museum is open, Puzzle Pieces offers a free admission day on the second Sunday of every month for those children and their families. Storytimes, music lessons, and parent information are all available free of charge thanks to sponsorship from Target and Pediatric Associates of Topeka.
The museum has posted free educational activities online daily since closure on March 13. Two new activities posted in both English and Spanish helped launch the Descubriendo en Casa website, a place to find activities accessible to Spanish-speaking families. Videos demonstrate educational activities that can be easily and inexpensively replicated using supplies found in most homes. The videos have collectively reached more than 250,000 viewers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the organization’s website. Videos are primarily sponsored by Evergy with additional support from Topeka Collegiate. The new bilingual videos are funded by Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Steve Spangler Shoutout to the Discovery Center!
We're all pretty huge Steve Spangler fans here at the Discovery Center, so Caitlin Luttjohann, Director of STEAM Education, recently arranged a science experiment how-to and shoutout from Steve to lift our spirits. We thought you might like it, too! Thanks, Steve!
Governor Laura Kelly Praises Discovery at Home
Thank you, Governor Laura Kelly, for recognizing the work of our team! Like you, we are incredibly proud of Kansas parents, grandparents and caregivers who have been caring for Kansas kids at home. We are thrilled to have had over 100,000 people view our resources since our building closed, and will continue to offer free content to ensure every child has access to quality, educational play experiences.
Governor Laura Kelly Praises Discovery at Home
Hi. Governor Laura Kelly, here. Today, I wanted to express my appreciation for the many parents, grandparents, and families all across Kansas who are making sure to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. I know it isn't easy, but you're doing a great job, and I am so proud of all of you.
And I want to thank organizations like the Kansas Children's Discovery Center, which is sharing its programming online free of charge. These educational and entertaining programs have been used more than 100,000 times over the past few weeks.
So thank you for all you're doing, and hang in there. Together, we'll get through this.
Discovery at Home Reaches 150K
May 1, 2020 - The Kansas Children’s Discovery Center announced today it has reached over 150,000 people with online educational content since closure. Since March 14, the nonprofit children’s museum has posted free activities encouraging children and families to learn and play together exploring science, art, nature, physical activity, and more.
Videos demonstrate educational activities that can be easily and inexpensively replicated using supplies found in most homes. Activities are developed by the Discovery Center education team and community partners. A recent video featuring a NASA spacesuit engineer was the museum’s most engaging online content to date. The videos have collectively reached 151,149 viewers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the organization’s website.
“We are thrilled that so many people are enjoying our online content,” said Dene’ Mosier, President/CEO of the Discovery Center, “play is powerful, it can heal and transform. Children need play to imagine, create, reduce stress and inspire joy. Although our building is closed, we’re working hard to continue to support families.”
Evergy, Topeka Collegiate School, and multiple private donors have contributed financially to the museum to support Discovery at Home programming. The museum is also now selling Discovery Bags, activity and toy kits delivered to homes, to generate additional revenue and provide fun for families.
Revenue from donors and sales is critical to the museum. The Kansas Children's Discovery Center is a privately-funded, nonprofit organization that relies on admission revenue to operate. The museum receives no ongoing government or taxpayer dollars, and is losing an estimated $1,797 every day they are closed. As a high-touch, hands-on environment, the museum will have to make many changes before reopening to the public. When the museum opens, capacity limits will further restrict revenue.
“Reopening will be a real challenge, but we are working hard to make sure we can serve families safely and keep the museum sustainable. Donors, large and small, are helping us make that happen,” said Mosier.
The Discovery Center hosts over 95,000 annual visitors. One quarter of visitors reside outside Shawnee County, making the museum a significant driver of regional tourism. The Discovery Center is seeking donations, video sponsorships and Discovery Bag sales to support the museum during closure.
In the News: Kansas Children’s Discovery Center creates at-home video series
Brianna Childers, Topeka Capital-Journal
March 29, 2020
Have you ever tried making a stomp rocket? What about water bottle boats? Have you been wanting to create a nature adventure book? During a time when parents are trying to find ways to keep their kids busy, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center has stepped in to lend a helping hand.