Black graphic; text reads "Part One of an interview with Mid-Michigan Children's Museum's Sam Jones"

We’ve gotten to help build several museum displays before. As we wrote about recently, our projects have included mannequin displays, custom display cases, and large-format visual collateral. But our most recent museum project was a first: it’s the first time we’ve worked with a museum meant especially for kids.

The Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum (MMCM) in Saginaw wanted to add a new section to their galleries. The job would involve transforming a storage space into usable gallery space. Plus, we’d have to design, develop, and build the exhibit from scratch. No problem, right?

Fortunately, our craftsmen were more than equipped to handle the job. COVID-19 introduced some wrinkles when the MMCM had to temporarily shut down. But once they reopened, we finished installing the last few pieces and turned the exhibit over to the kids.

As the MMCM sees it, fostering playtime doesn’t conflict with museums’ typical goal of sharing information. We recently got to talk with our contact at the MMCM, who explained to us how that belief shapes the museum’s approach and its displays. That’s what you’ll hear about this week — come back for Part Two to hear more about how the new exhibit supports the MMCM’s goals!

And if you haven’t gotten the chance yet, check out the video of our (socially-distanced) interview. It’s further down this page, or you can also find it on our YouTube channel.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us what your role is?

My name is Sam Jones; I’m the president and CEO at the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum.

Sam Jones, President of the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum
Can you describe what MMCM’s goals are? What’s the museum’s mission?

Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum is a place where kids and families can come to explore the wonders of the world, and use their creativity and their curiosity to do so.  So everything is hands-on; we have a very awesome play-and-learn environment.

We have eleven different galleries with multiple exhibits in each gallery for families to interact with.  These usually highlight different aspects of the Great Lakes Bay Region, so we have a gallery around healthcare, around automotive, we have a water gallery — all sorts of different things to really highlight our region.

We noticed your website mentions the concept of educational play frequently. Could you explain a little bit more what play-and-learn means for the museum’s approach?

Sure! So educational play, or play-and-learn, is something that is a core part of the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum. Play is a vital aspect of learning, and through interacting and playing in our galleries, children are able to learn different things about engineering and agriculture and all these different possible — not just careers, but subjects without even trying to do so.

We facilitate this through having hands-on galleries and there’s — you’ll see very little verbiage or instructions on how to interact with these galleries. And that is intentional because we find that if you let children just use their imaginations and get creative, they’re learning more and more, and sticking with these different topics of knowledge.

Sign reading "Pit Lane" and showing racecar graphics
How do you develop new exhibits, then?

So when looking at new galleries or exhibits, we take a look at what we already offer, and we take a look at the region as a whole. We choose different things by getting input from the community and educators, and from kids themselves.

To hear about how exactly Tinker Track fits in with this system of educational play, come back for Part Two of our interview. You can also check out our portfolio page about it.