MONTROSE – Since the Climbing Tree Children’s Museum opened its doors in August of 2006, more than 18,000 visitors have come through the small facility, averaging between 250 and 300 per month.
Kelly Kingery, president of the board of the nonprofit museum, said although the museum’s newest quarters are smaller, the move to 330 South Eighth Street gives it more usable space than the previous cavern-like location on North First, where the rent was also high.
The former location was about 3,600 square feet, but had a lot of unusable “dead space,” Kingery said, while the new location, at 2,300 square feet, is divided into several smaller rooms, allowing for a wider variety of activities, and costing “considerably less” in rent.
Education is the main activity at the museum, which caters at present to pre-school age children, Kingery said, but she would like it to expand to include older groups, including an after-school program for “early release” kids on Wednesday afternoons.
“We’re trying to change things around so they’re not doing the same boring things,” she said.
On Monday of this week, three toddlers seemed stimulated as they listened, and occasionally got up to run around, while volunteer Mary Boyers, a teacher at Montrose High School, read aloud for the puppet theater.
The museum also offers activities that include crafts and music, Kingery said, and more volunteers are always needed to help out, including new boardmembers, since two are retiring this year.
Kingery said the museum is also currently looking for a part-time paid volunteer coordinator, and is still taking resumes. Anyone interested can call the museum at 240-8733 or look online at Craig’s List under the listing for nonprofit jobs.
“It’s not a huge amount, but it’s extra money and you can bring your kids (to work) and add something to your resume,” Kingery said. “We’ve had quite a few applicants from Delta and Paonia, and though we would like to have someone local, we could make that work as well.”
The Climbing Tree was started by a group of five local women, Kingery said, and the board and a few volunteers keep things going, but she would like to see two volunteers lined up for each shift, in case someone is sick or it gets “crazy busy” with kids.
Volunteer shifts in the morning run from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with afternoon shifts from 1:30 to 5 p.m., sometimes a little later, depending on what needs to be done.
The museum is busiest in the winter and during hot parts of the summer, when people want to be inside more, she said.
Climbing Tree is open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free for kids under one year, and costs $4 for each child over one year and each adult, with senior discounts and punch passes available. Rates are also available for daycare and other groups. Family memberships to the museum are $95 per year for a family of four, with additional family members added for $5 each.
“That’s a good deal, because you don’t feel like you have to stay all day to get your money’s worth,” Kingery said. “We have members that bring the kids to play for 30 minutes or an hour and then go to the grocery store, and that’s their treat.”
Another patron comes in from Telluride on Thursdays to shop, but first brings her toddler to play for a while after the long ride, she said.
Education through play is the chief goal of the museum, which states on its website at www.theclimbingtree.org that it “exists to meet the need for a fun yet educational outlet for the youngest members of our community – children aged newborn through ten.”
Children’s museums are the fastest growing segment of the museum industry, the website states, with about 200 nationwide and another 80 in startup phase, but only two others exist on the Western Slope, in Durango and Grand Junction.
New programs are being added all the time at the museum, Kingery said, including a three-month music class on the first Thursday of the month for children 18 months and older, and an art class for two year olds starting this week.
“We’ll have different art stations and different little projects on each table,” she said, and she’s also working with a teacher from Telluride to get a creative theater class going sometime soon.
The museum can also be rented out for both private or public birthday parties, and hosts special events around holiday celebrations.
The next major event, on May 7, will be the museum’s annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser, where guests will decorate their own hats, take part in a raffles and a silent auction while watching the real derby on TV at a location yet to be determined.
“We did it at Remington’s last year, and it’s an adult fundraising event, a fun afternoon out for mom and dad,” Kingery said.
For more information about the Climbing Tree Children’s Museum, call 240-TREE (8733) or see the website at www.theclimbingtree.org.