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Open Wed–Sun 9am–4pm, plus late on Thur til 8pm. • Get tickets.

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Kids Rule! Meet Deb Gilpin, the new director of the Madison Children’s Museum

Madison Magazine


How does a children’s museum reflect the community it serves?
By showing that we care about our children and that we want to give them multidisciplinary experiences to really build them up as whole people. This museum takes in the local culture: the lakes, the dairy, the farmland and the technology that represents that this is a university city. I’m really excited about the commitment to being green in every way we can be and every way we can teach about it.

What’s special about our museum? 
This really is the best of the best museums in the country. What’s cool is that it’s not the big monster museum; those don’t have the intimacy or the funkiness. This museum matches my beliefs, which are that you have to take risks and think differently, and you’re gonna fail on some of those things but that has to be OK. That’s what kids do every day.

What advice do you have for parents and adults who visit the museum? 
As adults we multitask—a child’s playing and we’re not really paying attention. But to observe their parents playing shows them it’s OK to try something and have it not work out. Or it’s OK to get silly and laugh and to see your parents in a non-stress situation. The interaction is a key part of the experience.

Do children’s museums have a lasting impact on kids? 
When you let a child play in a very open-ended way, they learn how to explore unknowns and how to think about them. “What do I want to try next? What will happen?” These choices are developing curiosity, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Do you have a great idea you’ll bring to Madison? 
Madison is so far ahead of the rest of the country in so many ways that nothing jumps out at me right away. I’m sure there’ll be something. A lot of it is about showing our best sides to kids so they can show theirs.

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