Due to current state law, Huey's Hideaway has not been able to be open to the public. While this has had an impact on our staff and weekend workers and volunteers, we're most concerned for the months of planning that have been done for Huey's Academy. Our hope was to have 14 Weeks of Summer Camps for students ages 5-12 focusing on STEM education and project-based learning. With children not being able to get the time in school this year, it is our hope to be able to give learners that much needed boost and get them excited about learning outside!
Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum’s mission is to inspire children, connect families and build community through exploration, creativity, lifelong learning, and play. The museum was created to meet the need for a safe space where children in rural Medford, Wisconsin, could learn about themselves and the world around them through play and exploration. Through affordable-to-all programming and immersive exhibits, we foster developmental growth and help people throughout Taylor County connect to one another and to nature.
Huey's Hideaway opened in 2017 through various successful campaigns and fundraisers that helped turn an old apartment and commercial space into a wonderland of learning for 1,800 learners and counting. The museum is staffed by two full-time and two part-time staff members, as well as 10 volunteers. Huey’s Hideaway is led by our 11-member Board of Directors, composed of local civic and business leaders. Our Advisory Council also shares their professional expertise as community champions of the museum.
The museum’s focus on intentional play is based on the understanding that play helps children develop competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and resilience they will need to face future challenges. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. An amalgamated research field called the science of learning has identified four key ingredients of successful learning: learning occurs best when children are mentally active (not passive), engaged (not distracted), socially interactive (with peers or adults), and building meaningful connections to their lives (Hirsh-Pasek, et.al., 2015).
The dual focus of Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum – on youth and on the intentional play – creates a unique opportunity to meet the critical need for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education facing our nation. Growing evidence indicates that STEAM learning activities conducted outside of school directly impact what is possible to learn inside a school’s classrooms — just as what happens in the classroom impacts out-of-school time (OST) learning (http://stemreadyamerica.org/article-nrc-report/). Indeed, studies have found that out-of-school time STEM programs improve attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; boost STEM knowledge and skills through hands-on activities, and impact the possibility that youth will consider a future career in STEM careers. Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum is well-positioned to answer this need by providing project-based STEAM education during the out-of-school time during the summer to help inspire and grow the next generation of STEM talent.
Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum plans to expand its indoor learning environment to the outdoors, for individuals of all ages to enjoy. This space will be the only children’s museum green space of its kind in the entire State of Wisconsin—offering the rare opportunity in this digital age for the students to return to nature. Huey’s Academy Summer Camp, a hands-on STEAM camp, offered over 14 weeks, will engage youth in outdoor experiences through weekly themes and project-based learning.
Outdoor classrooms are proven to enhance cognitive abilities; improve eyesight; improve nutrition; support creativity and problem-solving; reduce stress; reduce ADD symptoms; improve academic scores. In fact, these positive outcomes of nature therapy address several Taylor County priorities for a healthier community: behavioral health, obesity prevention, and healthy and safe environments. This programming addresses the “nature deficit disorder” facing today’s children, by immersing them in fun experiences to garden, learn about conservation, cook outside, explore animals and plants native to Taylor County, and more (Louv, Richard. (2005) Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder).
Huey’s Hideaway’s Natural Playground and outdoor programming via Huey’s Academy Summer Camp is both influenced by and expands upon the exhibits of the museum. Seven in all, these exhibits explore areas such as conservation, agriculture, STEAM fields, and everyday social skills in the Main Square exhibit. The outdoor space will expose children to the science all around us, from the plants in the greenhouse and various gardens to the butterfly life cycle and various tree species that are planted within the space. Topics allow for program types that include lectures, workshops, classes, and camps with themes such as: “Green Handed Gardeners” and “Nature Rangers.” The various outdoor exhibits will help children develop skills related to technology, problem solving, creativity, self-expression, drama and art, and mathematical and spatial reasoning.
Furthermore, the outdoor space will address a growing need throughout the State of Wisconsin: food insecurity. Not only will the space provide additional room to explore, play, and learn, but it will also provide locally grown produce that can be used to educate and fuel our learners. With this space comes the potential for food pantry donations, camps related to food production and urban farming, and revenue from the sale of produce and goods grown in the greenhouse and gardens within the city lot located in downtown Medford, Wisconsin, adjacent to the museum. Participating youth will gain the first-hand experience of how gardening and growing plants from seed fuels the economy, the community, and our world.
One significant element of the outdoor area is the dedicated space and program opportunities for gardening year-round. Good health starts with good habits, like eating wholesome foods. The Tower Garden Community Garden is designed specifically for schools, restaurants, nonprofits, and other groups to help cultivate a vibrant community. As a set of 12 Tower Gardens, it includes everything needed to start growing up to 336plants — an abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. With the Tower Garden system, Huey’s Hideaway can easily grow its own fresh, nutrient-rich food year-round, without dependence on maintenance and quality of the soil – increasing the yield of produce, the pride in the young gardeners, and the likelihood of developing a lifetime of healthy eating habits.
Visitors and school-age volunteers will have the opportunity to learn about seeds, urban agriculture, agribusiness, sustainable living, botany, entrepreneurship, and the basics of small business. It is our hope that our efforts will have a lasting impact on our community and positively impact the next generations.
Huey’s Academy Summer Camp is intended to inspire children to explore not just at Huey’s, but also in their own backyards—developing a lasting positive relationship with nature and their own curiosity. This project-based STEAM camp experience will build future innovators who are among the next generation of STEM leaders who find cures, solve problems, invent products and generate ideas that can transform life.