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Bookzilla Loves ATL: Bookzilla Loves The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Bookzilla Loves ATL is a monthly blog series documenting Bookzilla’s adventures around the city of Atlanta. DBF’s curious Book Monster will visit various Atlanta-based organizations who are taking a unique approach to their industries and services, all while showing love for their hometown of Atlanta.

Bookzilla Loves The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

With over 200,000 guests coming through their doors each year, The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (CMA) is one of the most popular attractions in downtown Atlanta for children and families, and the only educational venue of its kind in the city. The museum features many exciting, hands-on exhibits and programs that help children develop competencies for literacy, math, and science. At DBF, we’re all about early learning, so our lovable book monster visited the CMA last week and caught up with Jane Turner, the museum’s Executive Director!

Located in the heart of Downtown Atlanta across the street from Centennial Park, Bookzilla stands in front of the entrance to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

Tell us about yourself, and what you do for The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (CMA)? My name is Jane Turner and I’m the Executive Director of CMA. I have lived in Atlanta for 24 years – moved here from Washington, DC. During that time, I was introduced to the vibrant arts and culture experiences that are an important part of Atlanta. I found my way to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta in 2004. Leading CMA has been, and continues to be, the most rewarding chapter of my career. Our mission here is deeply important to me and because the care, development, and nurturing of young children is of great concern to virtually everyone, we are able to partner and engage with a huge variety of groups and people in many different areas – the arts, science, literacy, cultural experiences, health, nutrition, and more.

Executive Director Jane Turner has channeled her love for arts and culture into the development of Atlanta’s youth. She took time out of her busy day to give a personal tour to Bookzilla!

How would you describe CMA’s organizational mission? Our mission statement: “To spark imagination and inspire discovery and learning for all children through the power of play” really says it all. What I have learned while working at Children’s Museum of Atlanta is that play is a serious (but joyful) endeavor which introduces children to topics great and small! The benefits of open-ended and physical play are profound and almost endless. It is through play that children develop their imaginations, dexterity, physical, cognitive and emotional strengths. It is how they are introduced to the greater world in an environment that they control; it is how they “try out” occupations, leadership roles, team-building, problem-solving, and creative endeavors. It is one thing to learn in an academic environment that red and blue mixed together form purple; it is quite another to dip a brush in thick, red paint, draw that brush across a wall, dip the brush in blue paint and mix it into the red and see the purple! Concepts come to life; ideas can become reality!

At the start of his fun day of adventure, Bookzilla recieves a ticket from CMA’s helpful ticket sales representative, Bianca Hannon.

What does CMA bring to Atlanta as a community? Having a Children’s Museum in the heart of downtown Atlanta communicates the importance that our community places on enriching experiences for young children and their families. It has become an important part of the fabric of opportunities for families — both local and tourist — in Atlanta. Coupled with our many partnerships in the community, the Children’s Museum reaches families, schools, educators, parents, and many organizations who look to connect with the very people who frequent the museum. It is a place that welcomes all; we provide a rich diversity of exhibits and programs that address current issues and important topics.

Bookzilla prepares to make another fresh pot of coffee in The Waffle House Café, which was built and set to represent an actual Waffle House restaurant!

Tell us something most visitors might not know about CMA. What you don’t see when you visit CMA is the deep and multi-layered community outreach programming that we engage in every day. We are involved in neighborhood outreach programs that reach thousands of children and their families who need them most each and every month. These outreach efforts are generously funded by a variety of corporate and family foundations in our community. We actively and systematically identify barriers to coming to CMA, and then determine ways to eliminate them. When we realize how much is gained through the joy of learning through play, when we see communication open between children; between children and parents; between children and teachers — because they are in an inviting, playful environment, then we believe it is an important part of our mission to do everything possible to enable all children — no matter their circumstances — to participate and benefit from our exhibits and programs.

Down at the farm exhibit, Bookzilla has some help milking a cow and admiring the big John Deere tractor!

How often do exhibits at CMA change? We present three traveling exhibits each year. We bring them from children’s museums and science museums from around the country to allow us to focus on different topics.

Bookzilla tests his fishing skills with other nature adventures.

Aside from exhibits in the museum, what are other offerings CMA provides the Atlanta community? In addition to our community outreach programs which take us into many Atlanta neighborhoods each week, we also bring “field trip” experiences to schools throughout the metropolitan area. This is a perfect way for schools who are either too far away to bring a group of children or who do not have the budget for onsite programs at the museum location.

Bookzilla poses next to a mural of handprints that pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream…” speech. The red tiles spell out “Dream”!

What makes CMA unique compared to other museums or attractions around Atlanta? CMA is the only cultural institution that is focused exclusively on young children and their families. We are all about the “whole child” which means we will address many subject areas, many issues that concern parents and families, and actually serve to introduce young children to themselves and to our entire community.

Blast off! At the rocket launch station, Bookzilla tries to hit the plants in our solar system with a foam rocket.

What is the best way to stay up-to-date on news, exhibit information, and events for CMA? I encourage anyone who wants to stay up to date on all that is happening at CMA to sign up for our e-newsletter, visit childrensmuseumatlanta.org, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The interactive sandbox is one of many amazing hands-on activities at the CMA. When you move the sand, a topographical map projected above moves along with each change.

What is your favorite children’s book, and why? I actually did not read James and the Giant Peach, written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, until I had children of my own. It was the first of all of the books by Roald Dahl that I read and we all (my children and I) loved the story. I loved that James was the lovable underdog who managed to escape the clutches of two nasty, self-centered aunts and in doing so encountered a fantastic and magical world within a giant peach and with giant insect characters as friends. I loved that he prevailed through impossible (but somehow believable) challenges. I think that this book should be on every child’s bookshelf because Roald Dahl makes the unbelievable believable and in his story the young and helpless child ends up finding his strength and prevailing. It is a modern version of an old-fashioned fairy tale!

What a fun day! We can’t wait to visit the Children’s Museum of Atlanta again soon!