Tulsa Children’s Museum Needs Your Help

Several years ago, a small group of civic-minded moms and others took on the not-so-easy task of bringing a first-class children’s museum to Tulsa. They did things right. They researched successful children’s museums in other cities. They joined the Association of Children’s Museums and are members of the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma Museum Association, Oklahoma Museum Network and several other professional associations.

The group worked slowly and diligently, starting first as a non-profit “museum without walls,” taking “exhibits” to the children – in schools, parks or wherever a gathering of children could be entertained and educated. Children learned about science through creating gigantic bubbles, or recycling by constructing sculptures or music and sound by banging drums.

I’ve enjoyed watching TCM grow over the years since 2007. Besides the museum-without-walls-activities, TCM put together an impressive children’s concert series, bringing high quality programming to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center throughout the year. Concerts continue today and are accompanied by “instrument petting zoos” before the performances, and other family-friendly activities.

All the while, TCM board members were on the lookout for the perfect permanent location in Tulsa. They finally found a place to open a temporary TCM Discovery Lab at Owen Park, located at 560 N. Maybelle. An executive director, Ray J. Vandiver, Ph.D., was hired. The Discovery Lab now has its own hands-on exhibits, hosts traveling exhibits such as the current GROSSOLOGY, has summer- and school-break camps, weekend workshops and free summer concerts and science programs at the splash pad located within Owen Park.

Now, the TCM’s Discovery Lab has the opportunity to have a permanent home at The Gathering Place for Tulsa being built along Riverside Drive. The Kaiser Family Foundation has donated $10 million toward the project, and TCM is asking for a match of $10 million from Vision 2025. If TCM receives funding, the children of Tulsa, Green Country and visitors to Tulsa will have a world-class children’s museum located at the south end of this incredible space. According to information from Dr. Vandiver, executive director of Discovery Lab, here are some reasons to contact your city councilor to support Vision 2025 funding for the museum:

Your City Councilors need to know the importance of Discovery Lab in Tulsa and what it means for your family and the children of Tulsa and the surrounding area.

Why is this important to Discovery Lab?

  • We are busting at the seams!  At our temporary location in Owen Park, over 270,000 children and families have visited Discovery Lab—over 100,000 more than expected.
  • Discovery Lab is an important educational partner to area schools hosting over 20,000 students on field trips and delivering over 1,800 sessions of outreach programming in two years.
  • 25% of field trips and 40% of outreach were delivered to Title I schools at no cost through our financial aid program, Accessible Discovery.

The vision for the permanent site will be transformative for Tulsa.

  • We hope to break ground in A Gathering Place (SE corner of 31st and Riverside Drive) in late 2018 or early 2019 and opening to the public in 2020.  (Discovery Lab in Owen Park will remain open throughout this time)
  • The permanent site will be a 45,000 square foot dynamic educational facility devoted to hands-on STEM and Health and Wellness learning sufficient to meet the needs of the expected 200,000+ annual visitors.
  • We are requesting a City contribution of $10 million as part of Vision 2025 renewal to match the potential gift of land valued at $10 million within A Gathering Place from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. This will be a one-time requested appropriation, as no operational or capital funding will be requested from the City again.

And, should you feel inclined to contact your city council member, here are their email addresses:

District 1: Jack Henderson Dist1@tulsacouncil.org

District 2:  Jeannie Cue    Dist2@tulsacouncil.org

District 3: David Patrick    Dist3@tulsacouncil.org

District 4: Blake Ewing  Dist4@tulsacouncil.org

District 5: Karen Gilbert   Dist5@tulsacouncil.org

District 6: Connie Dodson  Dist6@tulsacouncil.org

District 7:Anna America  Dist7@tulsacouncil.org

District 8: Phil Lakin, Jr.  Dist8@tulsacouncil.org

District 9: G.T. Bynum     Dist9@tulsacouncil.org

Editor’s Note:

When I was writing my blog post, I emailed my friend Allyson Jannotta, who was part of the original group who envisioned the Tulsa Children’s Museum. Allyson used to write a regular column for TulsaKids about goings-on at the museum-without-walls and the concert series. She no longer lives in Tulsa, but sent me this email, which I received after the blog was posted. I do want to give these people credit for setting the groundwork for TCM. Here is Allyson’s unedited email message:

“The original moms are Leah Storm, Dani Borman, Anitra Lavanhar, Jamie Oliphant, Vani Singhal, Michael Simpson (we had one dad) and Toby Ballenger. We started out with meetings in Leah’s playroom at her house. When we were a museum without walls, we would do traveling exhibits at local schools and events to get the word out. Dani Borman came up with our Bubble exhibit and Reclaim This – where kids would make designs out of recycled goods. Toby started the kids’ concert series at the Tulsa PAC with Ralph’s World and other performers.  In the lobby before and after the show we had the exhibits. Anitra started a outreach program where we brought yoga to Bunche Elementary kids.”

Categories: Editor’s Blog