The mission of the Children’s Museum of Rock County is to promote the joy of learning through PLAY. Play is the language of children and it is the process through which they learn. By learning, children grow. By growing, children transform; they transform themselves and can transform the world around them. Supporting CMRC is supporting the future of Rock County.
The Children’s Museum will be a community asset for generations to come. To ensure longevity, designing for flexibility and growth is key. The facility and its programs will be continually responsive to community needs and able to adapt to changing conditions.
The museum will be an adaptive reuse of the historic First National Bank at 100 W. Milwaukee Street. The First National Bank is an architectural cornerstone in downtown Janesville and an important piece of community history. The historic bank building will be kept intact, but the 1970s drive up will be demolished and replaced with a new addition. Angus-Young Associates of Janesville is leading the design and engineering of the project. Haizlip Studio from Memphis, TN, a leader in children’s museum design, has been engaged to transform this building from a financial center into a learning center. The museum will consist of 20,000-25,000 square feet of hands-on, interactive learning space.
These are just a few examples of the positive impacts that a Children’s Museum would bring to Downtown Janesville and the community as a whole.
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A children’s museum is an interactive environment with a variety of hands-on experiences that engage brains and move bodies. It is a place built specifically for kids and their developmental needs, curated in such a way that it is inviting, inspiring, fun, and playful.
The content and experiences in the typical children’s museum are targeted to ages 0-12, both on the exhibit floor and through program offerings. While we intend to focus heavily on ages 0-12 to remain operationally strong, we understand the need for quality learning opportunities for Rock County youth ages 13-18. The Children’s Museum will work to meet the needs of this older population through flexible spaces in the Museum and diverse program offerings that respond to and resonate with these ages.
While Rock County is a good place to raise a family in terms of affordability, we do not have the same number of family recreation outlets or educational enrichment opportunities compared to other communities of our size. A children’s museum is essential for enhancing our quality of life, investing in our children, retaining local talent, and recruiting new faces to keep our community growing.
At present, caregivers regularly leave Rock County to drive to one of four children’s museums located within an hour’s drive. These options include: The Madison Children’s Museum (Madison, WI), Explore Children’s Museum (Sun Prairie, WI), Black Earth Children’s Museum (Black Earth, WI), and the Discovery Center (Rockford, IL). If there was a Rock County option to patronize, they would stay local. The average local visitor to the Children’s Museum of Rock County is expected to spend an additional $50 beyond the cost of admission in nearby restaurants and shops. With 76,800 visitors expected to be local, that translates into an annual economic impact of $3.84 million to our community (Statistics Prepared by the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau). Without a children’s museum in Rock County, those dollars will be spent elsewhere. And, those experiences will occur outside of our borders, making people wonder if Rock County should really be the choice for their family.
When looking at Rock County in terms of setting children up for life success, a children’s museum can be a fantastic tool. Rock County has the lowest percentage of people with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (24.2% for ages 25+) and the lowest median income ($65,518) compared to its surrounding peer counties of Dane, Green, Jefferson, and Walworth (US Census Bureau, 2020). Rock County also has the highest proportion of people reporting four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) out of all 72 counties in the state (Community Health Assessment, Health Equity Alliance of Rock County, 2021). That means, 25% of our county’s population – an incredibly high percentage and the highest in the state – has experienced traumatic events during childhood from ages 0-17, the effects of which can last a lifetime and have a significant impact on life outcomes. Compared to someone with zero “yes” answers to the ACE questions, a person who answers “yes” four or more times is 6 times more likely to struggle with depression; 7 times more likely to become alcoholic; 10 times more likely to inject street drugs, and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide. They’re also twice as likely to have heart disease and twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer. The more “yes” answers a person has to the ACE questions, those odds increase exponentially. People with high ACE scores are also less likely to maintain relationships, collaborate at work, or hold a job. They’re also more likely to end up in foster care, homeless or in jail (“Impact of Childhood Trauma Reaches Rural Wisconsin,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 30, 2017).
When these data points are looked at in relation to one another, Rock County has a high incidence of trauma along with lower education levels and lower earnings. While a children’s museum cannot fix all these issues, providing a safe space that sparks interest, nurtures a love of life-long learning, and promotes strong child-caregiver relationships can have a deep effect on Rock County’s future.
Play is the language of children and it is the process through which they learn. Playing is central for holistic child development and supports its five central domains: cognition, social interaction and emotional regulation, speech and language, physical skills, and sensory awareness.
No! Play is ageless. Our hope is that the Museum engages and inspires adults as much as it does children and youth. We are designing the Museum with interaction and attachment in mind, from the exhibits to the spaces. Adults will be encouraged to play alongside their children in spaces that accommodate their size. Many of the exhibits will provide opportunities for collaboration, facilitating intergenerational play. The addition of flex spaces will create the possibility to host adult programming and experiences.
We are working with a museum designer to create an aesthetic that resonates just as much with adults as it does with children. As the center of PLAY in Rock County, we want the building to evoke a sense of fun, creativity, and excitement. It will be perfect for PLAYful after-hours, organizational, or corporate events.
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Children’s Museum of Rock County
PO Box 8042
Janesville, WI 53547