Good stories, along with troubling ones, come across our desks each week. Some have the potential to make one laugh, others, cry. And every now and then Detroit Public Schools announces something for which a silly little grin comes across my own face. That expression usually takes a while to go away. Sometimes, it doesn't.
That grin keeps edging back to a full-blown smile when it comes to the Detroit Children's Museum, which DPS is reopening for thousands of our students for field trips and classroom lending kits. Last year more than 11,000 DPS students benefitted from the services, watching space through the "touch the stars" planetarium; moving from station to station in the Live, Learn, Play Center; visiting the Science All Around, Travel Through History and Up North exhibit galleries; and wandering through other hands-on art and activity stations. During that same time, another 15,000 children from across the region benefitted from these services.
The road to reopening has been a winding one. Rightly determining that it could not support the general fund drain of fully operating the exhibits to the general public, Detroit Public Schools two years ago planned to vacate the structure, but then partnered with the Detroit Science Center in what was believed to be a win-win equation for all parties. The Science Center's own well-publicized struggles put the locks back on the building a month ago, even though DPS' secure revenue stream of federal funding for its own student programs there remained intact. Now, we'll use that funding ourselves to restart programs for DPS students, thankfully, with the same highly qualified -- and even more highly committed -- staff, and work to find another partner to fully operate the museum for students and families enrolled elsewhere. That will take a little more time.
This little former electric substation at 6134 Second Avenue features a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts ranging from dinosaur bones to dioramas, masks, costumes and dolls from around the world, an extensive collection of rocks, fossils, crystals, and more. When the announcement of its second closure took place, it was, like, "Gasp. We can't keep announcing the closure of this place again and again." Driving by many times over these past weeks, it seemed that even Silverbolt, the metal horse out front, seemed to have lost his swagger, if not his smile.
For all the value in hands-on science and technology education for these students, the Children's Museum produces smiles. I've yet to stop in there, whether it's during a DPS event or accompanying a young family making a Saturday visit, when the place hasn't been filled with as much education as happiness. There are larger and better-resourced museums throughout our area. We should be thankful for that too. But on a per capita basis, I'm not sure any place produces as many smiles per square foot.
For more information on the Detroit Children's Museum, the nation's third oldest children's museum, call (313) 873-8100. You can also find the Detroit Children's Museum on Facebook and Twitter.
And, if you want your children to have another reason to smile before the expanded programming to all families can be offered again, you'll just have to enroll them in DPS. An easy link is always located on the top left corner of our website, detroitk12.org.
Follow Steven Wasko on Twitter: www.twitter.com/detroitk12