Two things we clearly emphasize at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota are our commitments to play and to our community. One of the most impactful things we offer for the playing community is group visits. Over 5,000 of our visitors this year came through our doors as part of a group.
These group visits are an opportunity for many children to experience the Museum environment that may otherwise not be able to. Kim Kleven, Vice President of Play and Learning, shares, “We hear from many guests that their child came to CMSM with a group visit and then begged their family to come here. Once that family “gave in” and brought them here, they couldn’t believe they had not come here before and will definitely be coming back.”
What’s a “Group Visit?”
Group visits include all school field trips, home school groups, child care centers, preschools, non-school day programs, summer enrichment groups, and any other large group of children coming to the Museum together. Our group visits are most appropriate for Early Childhood through 3rd grade groups. We welcome mixed-age groups if specific considerations can be met, such as chaperone requirements (one adult for every four kids). So far in 2022, we have welcomed 4,016 children for group visits and 1,105 chaperones!
When do groups visit?
Group Visits can be scheduled during the Museum’s open hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Visits are 90 minutes long, typically, with restrictions on how many groups can be in the Museum at the same time. Group Visits happen all year long. During the summer months, we tend to see more multi-aged groups coming in. March through May are very busy months for group visits, as schools and other organizations look to have an end-of-the-year field trip experience.
We reserve Wednesdays as a non-group visit day. This way members and guests can plan their visits for Wednesdays if they prefer to be here on a day with fewer people. We encourage guests and members to check in with the front desk and ask about groups. We will gladly share when we have groups booked if you want to know if the Museum will be busy at certain times with groups. (Did you know we also have special visit days every quarter for children with special sensory needs? These days can really make a difference for some of our visitors. Check it out here.)
What do groups do while they are here?
We encourage groups to do the same things as our other guests: Play! Explore! The goal is to not bring a group in and sit them down to facilitate the experience of playing at the Museum. Children and their chaperones can play and explore and learn from our environment. Each day that Group Visits are scheduled, our Program Facilitation Team will have programming at the Museum. Children can choose to participate in the programming, but we never require anything of them.
“When we started to look at welcoming groups back after COVID,” says Kleven, “we knew that our environment was meant to be played in and explored and that each child will be arriving with a need that we hope to fill. If a child needs to spend 90 minutes finding their way through the Tree of Forts, we want them to be able to do that. The next child may desire to spend their time hopping from each exhibit or spending time with our team exploring a pop-up program in Cecil’s Imagineering Loft. Yet another child might spend their whole visit scooping dirt, gathering rocks, and making mud stew in our Dotson Back 40. Moving their bodies and exposing them to our awe-inspiring environment ignites their natural curiosity. That is our goal for every child that arrives at CMSM for a group visit–or any visit.”
Where’s the farthest any group has ever come from?
We have welcomed groups from Northern Iowa, Central Minnesota, and the Northern Suburbs. We certainly have many visits from the immediate Mankato area, but a good percentage of our group visits are from 40 or more miles away.
How would a schoolteacher or group reserve a visit?
We want children to find the spaces that best fit the experience that they want to interact with. All of our exhibits in the Museum are linked to meet various Minnesota Learning Standards and the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, which may support a group’s purpose in coming to the CMSM as a Learning Experience.
Anyone wanting to schedule a visit for their group can find the form on our website. Our front desk staff will then respond to find a time that works best for the group visit and go over any questions at that time. Our March through May availbility fills up fast, so we encourage groups to get their time reserved as soon as possible. We do limit the amount of groups that can be here at one time. With the popularity of this experience growing, we are working hard to find opportunities for all to visit! Group Visits are also supported by our Gateway to Play Access program. Each group visit is discounted by 10% for each child and 50% for each adult chaperoning.
The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota’s mission is to ignite the natural curiosity of every child through the power of play in a dynamic, awe-inspiring environment. Visit our galleries and discover the many exciting opportunities to engage in hands-on learning that await your group. Daily programming will provide additional experiences for children to explore, create, and learn. Come join us!