Huey's Hideaway Children's Museum is inspiring children, connecting families and building community through exploration, creativity, lifelong learning, and play. With fun, educational, family-oriented, and affordable to all programming, Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum is dedicated to serving the families and residents of north-central Wisconsin. Located in downtown Medford, interactive exhibits that let visitors explore new ideas and expand their imagination.
Huey's Hideaway Children's Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that opened its doors on June 8, 2017, through various successful campaigns and fundraisers that helped turn an old apartment and commercial space into a wonderland of learning for 1,800 learners and counting.
Huey’s Hideaway has two primary challenges: (1) developing opportunities for play and “green” time that are (2) accessible to underserved and underprivileged families in the museum’s service area.
Huey’s Hideaway continues to expand programming to provide valuable play opportunities and is currently expanding programming with outdoor exhibits. The outdoor space will allow the Museum the opportunity to broaden its scope of the impact regarding education and community development. Huey’s Hideaway has already begun the process of putting in raised beds and a traditional garden with the help of a local Farm & CSA.
In addition to breaking ground, the outdoor initiative has attracted a new community of support, investing in the next generation’s relationship to nature and helping to build sustainability of the museum. Cultivating donors is paramount to overcoming the second challenge of creating a more inclusive membership base for children and families who cannot otherwise afford traditional museum membership fees. Huey’s Hideaway continues to work hard to develop alternative revenue sources to circumvent reliance on revenue from annual memberships and daily admissions. With the help of local areas businesses who believe in our mission of inspiring children, connecting families, and building community through exploration, creativity, lifelong learning, and play, the museum can offer scholarships to nearly all who apply. While Huey’s Hideaway has been able to more inclusive to all social strata--resource development is an ongoing challenge to continue to meet the needs of the community and offer the same opportunities that children from more urban or wealthy communities may enjoy.
Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum plans to expand the indoor learning environment to the outdoors, for individuals of all ages to enjoy. This space will be the only children’s museum green space of its kind in the entire State of Wisconsin—offering the rare opportunity in this digital age for the students to return to nature.
Recently, much attention has been made to the notion of our children’s “nature deficit disorder,” particularly about their lack of engagement with nature, especially for children living in city spaces. (Richard Louv. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. 2008) The results of numerous surveys and studies confirm the dramatic and worrying consequences of the current situation: children today spend half the time their parents did playing outside and the average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen. These behavioral changes have resulted in physical health problems including obesity, mental health problems, and children’s growing inability to assess risks to themselves and others. As Collin O’Mara, head of the National Wildlife Federation, so poignantly states, “We have traded green time for screen time — and it has had an impact on kids’ well-being and development.”
But, there’s a solution. Outdoor classrooms are proven to enhance cognitive abilities; improve eyesight; improve nutrition; support creativity and problem-solving; reduce stress; reduce ADD symptoms; improve academic scores. In fact, these positive outcomes of nature therapy address several Taylor County priorities for a healthier community: behavioral health, obesity prevention, and healthy and safe environments.
Huey’s Hideaway’s planned outdoor programming is both influenced by and expands upon the exhibits of the museum. Seven in all, these exhibits explore areas such as conservation, agriculture, STEAM fields, and everyday social skills in the Main Square exhibit. The outdoor space will expose children to the science all around us, from the plants in the greenhouse and various gardens to the butterfly life cycle and various tree species that are planted within the space. Topics allow for program types that include lectures, workshops, classes, and camps with themes such as: “Green Handed Gardeners” and “Nature Rangers.” The various outdoor exhibits will give children to develop skills related to technology, problem solving, creativity, self-expression, drama and art, and mathematical and spatial reasoning.
Programming is intended to inspire children to explore not just at Huey’s, but also in their own backyards--developing a lasting positive relationship with nature and their own curiosity.
Furthermore, the outdoor space will address a growing need throughout the State of Wisconsin: food insecurity. Not only will the space provide additional room to explore, play, and learn, but it will also provide locally grown produce which can be used to educate and fuel our learners. With this space comes the potential for food pantry donations, camps related to food production and urban farming, and revenue from the sale of produce and goods grown in the greenhouse and gardens within the city lot located in downtown Medford, Wisconsin adjacent to the museum.
This space will be the only children’s museum green space of its kind in the entire State of Wisconsin—offering the rare opportunity in this digital age for the students to return to nature. While there are opportunities to explore nature in areas forests, as well as parks and a community garden where children can explore and interact with their surroundings and others, very few children have the opportunity to freely learn within a safe environment that is specifically created for their enjoyment and development. While daycares and educational institutions allow for similar experiences, many do not happen organically or with caretakers and or parents. We want parents to not only enjoy watching their children play but also to play with them and expose young people to the power of play, healthy eating, nutrition, and nature.
Huey’s Hideaway goals are to increase traffic, revenue, and programming opportunities to further our mission of building community. Specific data will be collected to monitor Daily Admission & Membership to assess engagement in programming. Huey’s Hideaway is committed to ongoing performance evaluation and improvement, and therefore, will also measure the impact and effectiveness of programming. Through participant and parent surveys, Huey’s Hideaway will measure:
Change knowledge and information retention over time
Changes in attitudes, behaviors and/or beliefs regarding nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices
Pounds of food donated to local food pantries
The number of participants in camps and clubs.
The renovations to launch the outdoor programming as fully envisioned is a multiyear project. Accordingly, within one year, the museum conservatively aims to fully develop one-third of the planned space.
Huey’s Hideaway’s long term objectives are as follows:
We want children to feel completely immersed in a space designed to ignite a passion for the outdoors and spur future adventures in nature.
Secondly, we want to educate young people about the world around them. Outdoor Learning Environments stimulate the diversity of children's play experience and contribute to their overall development.
We want to aid parents in developing a balance and greater understanding of the importance of spending time outdoors as it relates to mental health, cognitive development, creativity and their sense of wonder and connection to the earth.
Success for Huey’s Hideaway means the completion of the outdoor renovations within 3-5 years that continues to attract growing engagement from the community and remains accessible to all. Therefore, Huey’s Hideaway’s will monitor:
Participation growth in programming for PK-12 grade.
School and community organization partnership and engagement
Parent and educator feedback regarding programming
Finally, maintaining long term financial sustainability is a primary operational objective of Huey’s Hideaway--developing revenue-generating ventures to support access to this valuable resource for years to come.
The museum must maintain a variety of programming to meet the needs of children and families in Taylor County. Huey’s Hideaway also hopes to serve visitors from surrounding communities to contribute to the local economy and function as a valuable educational resource for other communities that lack such opportunities.
With partners, Huey’s Hideaway can create optimal developmental opportunities and environments to prepare our children to be academically, socially, and emotionally equipped to lead us into the future.
Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum opens a door to imagination, unlocking the potential of play and curiosity for the community. Programming is purposefully designed to benefit generations across the lifespan, simultaneously nurturing minds and bringing families closer.
Museums serve as ‘gap institutions,’ called as such because they bridge the gap between what students learn in school and the application of these very same lessons in a non-classroom setting. In a children’s museum like Huey’s Hideaway, every element is designed to engage the audience in a whole-body approach in the development and growth of several key areas of learning for youth. Huey’s Hideaway serves local school districts to enhance traditional classroom programming. This focus on educational development is what separates children’s museums as an educational institution from other youth-oriented play environments.
We wanted nothing more than to have our children grow and learn in a safe environment. While research continually demonstrates the unparalleled value of play for children’s healthy development, our future generation is increasingly deprived of meaningful opportunities for free play with peers. “Currently, many schoolchildren are given less free time and fewer physical outlets at school; reducing time committed to recess, the creative arts, and even physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics. This change may have implications on children’s ability to store new information because children’s cognitive capacity is enhanced by a clear-cut and significant change in activity.
Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges. Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. When play is allowed to be child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
Outdoor programming is both influenced by and expands upon the exhibits of the museum. Seven in all, these exhibits explore areas such as conservation, agriculture, STEAM fields, and everyday social skills in the Main Square exhibit. Topics allow for program types that include lectures, workshops, classes, and camps with themes such as: “Green Handed Gardeners” and “Nature Rangers.”
Specifically, the outdoor space will expose children to the science all around us, from the plants in the greenhouse and various gardens to the butterfly life cycle and various tree species that are planted within the space. We want to encourage children to explore not just a Hueys, but in their own backyards.
Technology is explored through simple machines such as diggers in the sandpit and natural wedges used in the housing area. Technology is easily incorporated into our outdoor classroom where children are allowed to pour, mix, scoop and investigate using all five senses. A natural obstacle ‘Adventure Course’ will allow for problem-solving and large motor skills development.
Children will be able to build and create while solving problems using simple tools and naturally sourced objects such as logs, sticks, rope, simple pulleys, and gears. Sand play allows children to truly create using their hands and simple tools.
With the amphitheater, children have the opportunity for self-expression in our version of the Greek agora. Similarly, our classrooms will allow for children to again create with their hands and allow them to explore simple woodworking, pottery, natural art, drawing, painting, sand art, and more!
Lastly, the space allows for the application of math with measuring, counting, and spatial reasoning. The greenhouses will allow for campers and visitors to observe the different yields between various plants and methods of gardening. Woodworking and home building will allow for learners to take a design and convert it into a 3-D object.
Community Year-Round Garden
One significant element of the outdoor area is the dedicated space and program opportunities for gardening year-round. Good health starts with good habits, like eating wholesome foods.
The Tower Garden Community Garden is designed specifically for schools, restaurants, nonprofits, and other groups to help cultivate a vibrant community. As a set of 12 Tower Gardens, it includes everything needed to start growing up to 336 plants — an abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. With the Tower Garden system, Huey’s Hideaway can easily grow its own fresh, nutrient-rich food year‑round, without a dependence on maintenance and quality of soil--increasing the yield of produce, the pride in the young gardeners, and the likelihood of developing a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
Visitors and school-age volunteers will have the opportunity to learn about seeds, urban agriculture, agribusiness, sustainable living, botany, entrepreneurship, and the basics of small business. It is our hope that our efforts will have a lasting impact on our community and positively impact the next generations.
Under greenhouse conditions, the Tower Community Garden can produce thousands of pounds of fresh, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables year-round. Similar gardens have produced 7,500 lbs. for harvest in one year. Huey’s Hideaway intends to maximize the investment in resources and time to benefit the community in various ways that can contribute to our community’s sustainability.
The produce grown in the greenhouse will be used not only for education purposes, but will also help sustain area food pantries with locally grown and sourced produce. It is our intent that the museum would be able to partner with other organizations to serve food insecure households in Taylor County, specifically with the Indianhead Community Action Agency, which creates local food security opportunities over thousands of individuals every year.
The Tower Gardens will not only improve food sustainability for the local community, but also has the potential to contribute to the future sustainability of Huey’s Hideaway. The produce from the tower gardens can generate revenue in exchange for donations that will sustain the garden and programming to support it.
Outdoor classrooms are proven to: enhance cognitive abilities; improve eyesight; improve nutrition; support creativity and problem-solving; reduce stress; reduce ADD symptoms; improve scores.
In fact, these positive outcomes of nature therapy address several Taylor County priorities for a healthier community: behavioral health, obesity prevention, and healthy and safe environment, as well as demonstrating strong alignment with Aprirus’s most recent needs assessment and CHIP. Within the greenhouse structure, Huey’s Hideaway’s Community Garden provides year-round opportunities to engage in nature, harnessing these proven benefits regardless of the season or conditions.
As specifically indicated in Aspirus’s Community Health Needs Assessment, nutritional choices are a significant issue in our community. “Nutrition and Health Foods” was identified as one of Price County’s top priorities in its 2016 CHIP. Most of the nutritional problems relate to a limited number of alternatives, the high cost of healthy eating and/or personal choices. This garden/greenhouse will work to mitigate those barriers to healthy eating and nutrition education, with a positive impact on other domains of health and wellness.
Studies show that garden-based nutrition education improves students' eating habits by increasing their knowledge of, preference for, and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, increasing physical activity while gardening can be fairly easy and simple. Gardening, itself, is great exercise. General gardening activities such as planting, digging, weeding, and harvesting can burn approximately 135 calories per half hour for a person weighing 125 pounds. (Rutgers Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets & Bulletins https://njaes.rutgers.edu/fs1211/) Furthermore, simply increasing the number of time children are spending outdoors is shown to have numerous health and wellness benefits.
Huey’s Hideaway’s Outdoor Space and Garden will not only promote healthy child development, but also build overall community wellness and education, with year-round access to these opportunities. This space is directly geared towards helping fight against obesity through physical activity, poor eating habits, slower physical and mental development. Ultimately, the goal for this space is to create happier healthier kids both mentally and physically--preparing the next generation to be academically, socially, and emotionally equipped to lead us into the future.
“In far too many schools around the country, nutrition education looks like an authority figure standing at the front of the classroom pointing at a government poster on the wall. And that has been true for generations, and it has not driven the kind of healthy eating culture that our children need to succeed in school and in life,” says Curt Ellis, the CEO of FoodCorps. His organization has placed service members at 350 schools across the country to deliver gardening and cooking lessons and encourage a school-wide culture of health and nutrition. “Just as we have learned that rote memorization is no longer the right way to teach kids math or English skills, the same is true with nutrition education,” Ellis says..
This ongoing project is located directly within the Aspirus Medford Service Area who has donated $6000 towards our project and the messaging and outcomes of the project will help create cultural awareness and understanding specific to wellness and human development as it relates to both play, nutrition, and overall mental health of both our children and families.
This project will engage--rather than lecture at--our community, promoting and enhancing healthy lifestyles.
Unlike lectures or worksheets on healthful practices, gardens provide an experiential, hands-on learning environment, “where kids get the chance to smell the leaves of the tomato plant and eat carrots with the dirt still on.” Working in a garden is a real-world activity; it engages students and encourages them to explore and reason independently.
That repeated exposure can also build emotional connections to food that are essential to behavior change. When children spend weeks or months growing their food, they feel proud of and connected to it — which is key to trying new dishes with an open mind. (Harvard Graduate School of Education. Available at: https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/let-it-grow)
Huey’s Hideaway gardens will create opportunities for discussion between children and parents and allow for behavior change as a result of education partnered with programming and free-play. As children use the space and parents interact with them, new skills and mindsets will be created through exploration and graphics that will help educate adults as to the importance of uninhibited play and exercise and healthy eating habits. Learning how all of these things play a part in overall wellness is our main objective. It is never too late to start playing.
Furthermore, with the help of a local financial institution, we are able to offer scholarships to all families who apply who fall within a lower income bracket offering additional exposure to children and adults who might not have access to fresh produce and/or education pertaining to healthy eating. We hope that all the children who would like to come to the Museum are able to!
Huey’s Hideaway is motivated by the outpouring of support from its engaged community of volunteers and neighbors, who are dedicated to the opportunities the indoor and outdoor environment offer to our community’s children and families. Huey’s Hideaway has successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish and maintain the indoor space, and begin development of the outdoor space. Through its robust financial sustainability strategy, the organization is engaging donors in multi-year pledges to ensure ongoing financial support. Furthermore, Huey’s Hideaway would not exist but for dedicated community volunteers who worked together to develop a vision and create the museum space-- volunteer engagement is a substantial characteristic of the organization’s identity and an important component of the organization’s sustainability. Huey’s Hideaway’s supporters are committed to protecting this space and the opportunities for years to come.
There are a number of successful stories of nonprofits utilizing the tower garden resources to make a significant impact in their community.
(Available at: https://www.towergarden.com/ja/blog.read.html/en/2017/11/nonprofit-community-gardens.html) One example centers on an organization based in Jacksonville, Florida, (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry). BEAM provides low-income residents with necessities, such as food and shelter, as well as opportunities to improve their quality of life. An example of the latter is the organization’s 6,000 sq. ft. farm, Grace Garden. In addition to raised vegetable beds, fruit trees, and even a Shiitake mushroom farm, Grace Garden grows 12 Tower Gardens, allowing BEAM to supply residents with nutrient-dense foods year-round. Last year alone, BEAM grew more than 7,500 lbs. of produce for its food pantry. Utilizing 12 vertical growing towers which require 10% of the water needed by conventional farming and growing in 2/3 the time, BEAM can now offer clients, nutrient-dense, seasonal greens, year-round. (https://www.jaxbeam.org/grace-garden/)
In Memphis, the same concept using 22 Towers allows for a local Boys and Girls Club to teach children how to grow, prepare, and sell food as part of a culinary program.
With the right tools and community engagement, the proposed community garden has proven to yield positive community impact for the long-term.