Wondertrek Children’s Museum Announces Mailhot as Program Coordinator – Brainerd Dispatch
WonderTrek Children’s Museum, a north-central Minnesota museum for children, families and educators, announced the appointment of Emilee Mailhot as Program Director for its Playful Connections Studio Explorations programming.
Mailhot will join the project team to develop and implement Playful Connections, a new 18-month regional program funded by the Minnesota Legacy, Arts, Culture and Heritage Fund, according to a press release.
Through Playful Connections, WonderTrek will engage children and adults in play-based studio explorations to help design a signature “up north” climbing experience that reflects regional art, culture and heritage. Special consideration will be given to engaging families of diverse backgrounds and lived experiences in WonderTrek’s studio space at the Franklin Arts Center and in remote locations throughout the region. Particular attention will be given to families encountering obstacles to participation. By bringing together diverse perspectives to share ideas in a studio learning process tailored to WonderTrek audiences, Playful Connections empowers children to lead the way to a more connected region and state through the power of play.
“I was fortunate to grow up in the Brainerd Lakes region in a family that loved and respected nature and local culture. I loved being outdoors and exploring the forest, and I was always curious about everything around me. I remember taking trips to the Children’s Museum in the Cities and the Duluth Aquarium where I was able to learn more about the environment I lived in. It all felt so magical,” Mailhot said in the press release. “It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized my fascination with science was actually a passion, so I pursued studies in psychology and neuroscience. After spending several years working with children in early childhood development and play-based learning settings, I have returned to the area and am incredibly honored to be part of the team developing a museum for children in our area.
The Wondertrek Children’s Museum received a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Center. Funds received will support hands-on, in-person programs at 185 events and get-togethers in 17 communities across five counties, serving more than 4,000 children and 1,500 families. Programs reach families that have traditionally been underserved throughout the region, WonderTrek has partnered with community engagement specialists from Region Five Development to help serve more than 100 Ojibwe, Latinx, immigrant, military and Amish families from Leech Lake Band with COVID-19-safe Play Packs designed to stimulate family learning at home.
In addition to securing significant engagement with families, Legacy’s previous funding also helped develop the master plan framework for WonderTrek’s Interactive Play and Learning Center, a multi-faceted resource for play, child development, experiences, hands-on learning materials, and workshops that serve museum staff, volunteers, teachers, and education leaders from early childhood through middle school across the region. As an emerging children’s museum, WonderTrek said it has made progress in achieving its mission to “bring local children and families together in shared experiences that are locally grounded and open to the world.”
Even with pandemic-related scheduling issues, WonderTrek continues to operate its studio at the Franklin Arts Center, a mixed-use Artspace facility in central Brainerd, and plans to open the new permanent children’s museum within the next few years. . Now, WonderTrek is consolidating the learning and building on the relationships established over the past two years and is ready to continue its mission of bringing families together through shared experiences with an innovative new program.
This work is funded in part by the Minnesota Humanities Center with money from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund which was established with the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.