One Hundred Years of Singing Pines
Boca Raton Children’s Museum Celebrates Centennial
By Kristan Ashworth
Name one place locally where children can view a 100-year-old vacuum cleaner, play on a pirate ship, check out fossils and artifacts, and then have a tea party and play board games?
If you answered the Boca Raton Children’s Museum, then your child has likely joined the over 60,000 other children who have benefited from the exhibits and programs of this wonderful museum each year. “We’re the first and oldest children’s museum in Florida,” said Denise St. Patrick-Bell, the museum’s Executive Director. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Some of the history she’s referring to includes the several historic buildings that the campus of the Children’s Museum consists of — some of the oldest in Boca Raton: the Singing Pines building, built by the Myrick family in 1913, is celebrating its 100th birthday this year! Next door to Singing Pines you’ll find a 1935 Cottage originally built as a private home by the grandchild of the Ricketts pioneer family. And most recently, a replica of the Rickards House, which was originally built in 1897 by Captain T. M. Rickards, opened in June of 2011 and houses Jason’s Music Hall.
Denise has been lending her extensive education background to the museum as the Executive Director since May of 2012 and wants to focus on early childhood programs since they have many young, new parents bringing in their children who range in age from toddlers to around 8-years-old. The 34-year-old non-profit Children’s Museum introduces new programs, activities and exhibits as donations to the museum permit. The museum currently features activity centers which offer an exciting play time for children: they get to shop the old fashion way at Ricketts Corner Store, a replica of Boca Raton’s first grocery; or learn about the workings of a bank with teller windows and a working vault at the KidsCents Bank. There’s also Oscar’s Post Office, Dr. Dig’s Back-Porch, an Art & Science Exhibit; a Miniature Theater with hand puppets; a parlor with a piano, board games and fun clothes to play dress up; and a Children of the Wilderness exhibit which showcases the pioneer history of Singing Pines. Programs include Story Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a “Signing Away Temper and Tantrums” baby sign language class, an 8-week Summer Camp, Traveling Museum outreach programs, and various special events throughout the year, including several this year to commemorate and celebrate the 100th birthday of Singing Pines. All of this certainly offers a lot of fun learning opportunities for children, but for Denise, “It’s the dream of that one ‘angel donor’ who would help us really take the museum to the next level.” Some ideas on her wish list include renovation of the 1935 cottage which will allow them to increase exhibits; bringing in traveling exhibits from other museums; the creation of an online portal to share a virtual experience of the Children’s Museum with children all over the world; expansion of the audio/visual room; building a radio studio where children can create a radio broadcast; expanding the nature trail; creating an outdoor musical area and the installation of climbable art for the outdoor area. Those are just a few of the many ideas Denise has to further the mission of the museum, but until those dreams become reality, she invites the community to get involved in other ways. A centennial planning committee has been formed and volunteers are needed to help plan the special events throughout the year. They also need volunteers for data entry, marketing, helping organize special events and the upcoming summer camp. Interested volunteers can download a volunteer application from the Children’s Museum website and return it to the attention of Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Businesses and organizations can get involved at special events via sponsorships, booths, or performance venues. Donors are also needed to underwrite the special event admission cost for low income families and special needs children.
If you’d like to learn more about the museum and enjoy a great day out with the family, don’t miss the Family SpringFest, Saturday, April 6. The event will be held from 10am-2pm and feature multi-cultural activities, games, crafts, food trucks, pictures with the spring bunny, Polynesian dancers and much more. It’ll be a fun-filled day for families, and a great opportunity to see firsthand all that this wonderful piece of Boca Raton history has to offer.
Boca Raton Children’s Museum
498 Crawford Blvd., Boca Raton
561.368.6875 • www.cmboca.org
Hours of Operation: Monday - Saturday 10am-5pm • Closed on Sunday
Admission: $5 per person, infants are free
Group Rates: By advance reservation only, minimum $50