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Inspiring Minds In a Kid-Powered Universe

By Kelly Church

The Amelia Park Children's Museum is a Westfield, MA center for hands-on activities and inspiring creativity that helps children, parents and community members learn more about themselves and the world around them. The museum was opened in 1997 by a group of parents and teachers in the Westfield area that wanted a space dedicated to enriching children's lives through engaging education.

Executive Director Katherine Daly explains that the late philanthropist Albert Ferst, "wanted to create a place where children could imagine and learn through a hands on environment. His goal was to inspire a place that children could play and families could have fun while learning about the community, environment and world."

The museum creates a "kid-powered universe" where children can explore the real world - sized for them. A construction area is designed to let imaginations run wild. With a wooden tool set, kids learn the basics of building, establishing their motor skills. The doctor's office exhibit allows the kids to be the doctors. It is equipped with realistic doctor's office tools, including an X-ray light, to let children mend everything from a scratch to a broken bone. The dentist's office lets kids learn about their teeth. While 'patients' sit in the dentist chair, they can dress up in a dentist's uniform and see X-rays of teeth. Amelia's Café is a replica of a kitchen, allowing kids to play restaurant. The Big Y exhibit represents a real-life grocery store. Kids can push shopping carts and buy fake food, even using a scanner and a cash register. The goal is to teach food groups and nutrition in an engaging way. The Berkshire bank exhibit helps kids establish a mind for money while playing games.

"Amelia Park is a family-oriented, teacher-guided, hands-on experience for young children to gain skills," Daly says. "These skills include but are not limited to, social, imaginative, cognitive, behavioral and STEM learning experiences. With its innovative learning approach, children can partake in our daily activities or explore the museum at their desired pace."

The museum is open for school field trips and also hosts events throughout the year. Amelia Park hosts animal feedings several times per week to get the kids interacting with the animals at the museum: two guinea pigs, hamster, box turtle, blue-tongue skink, corn snake, and leopard gecko. The museum also has hosted seasonal events, including a family Halloween party, a spring tea party, and a bike parade. For the holidays, Santa even arrives in a helicopter!

"Amelia Park is also active in the community, between food drives, free events, donations of passes and contributing in events that benefit the community as a whole," Daly says.

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