History & Milestones
The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac offers an incredible experience for children and their caregivers and provides an invaluable asset to our region. Museum visitors include the young and the young at heart, not only from Fond du Lac, but from the entire region and even as far away as Germany. The museum has served as a gathering place for families, school groups, scouting organizations, daycares, preschools, home school organizations, Moms’ clubs, the Boys and Girls Club, special needs groups and more.
Generation 1: Introduction in June 2002
The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac began in June 2002 as a project of the Leadership Fond du Lac program, through the Association of Commerce. It was supported by the Windhover Center for the Arts and further developed by a committee of volunteers including business leaders, educators, community advocates, and parents who were dedicated to providing more for our children and our community.
Generation 2: A Museum Without Walls
In May 2004, the Children’s Museum was incorporated as a legal entity, obtained non-profit status and began to take shape as strategic business plans progressed.
In the beginning, the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac operated as a “museum without walls”, in effect, they offered temporary, traveling exhibits. From June 2002 through April 2006, the museum presented the community with six traveling exhibits, rented from other museums. Each traveling exhibit drew a growing population of children, parents and educators and contributed to the excitement of the possibility of Fond du Lac building its own permanent Children’s Museum.
In April 2006, several leaders from the Fond du Lac Arts Council and the Children’s Museum recognized that two non-profits had a unique opportunity to partner and further support the arts and culture offerings in the community. With this unique partnership, the support of many dedicated volunteers and financial contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations, the museum evolved from a temporary exhibitor to a permanent reality.
Our traveling exhibits were enjoyed by thousands of children prior to our permanent museum opening. Following is a brief description of our past “museum without walls” events:
- June 2002 – This 2-day event was held at Windhover Center for the Arts and enjoyed by approximately 1,000 people.
- February 2003 –This 3-day event was held at Windhover Center for the Arts and enjoyed by over 1,500 people. The theme for this event was “On A Roll”, based on a Harley Davidson exhibit rented from the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee. Hundreds of excited children visited with organized fieldtrips. Funding was received by Oakmark International.
- June 2003 – This display was at Lakeside Park during Walleye Weekend festivities. It featured “Playport” boats which were purchased using funding from Mercury Marine.
- November 2003 – This 4-day event was held at Windhover Center and enjoyed by over 1,500 people, including hundreds of children who participated through fieldtrips. The theme for this event was “Just Build It”. The event featured a “Construction Zone” provided by CD Smith Construction and an “Infant and Toddler” corner, sponsored by Wachovia Securities. Several other companies also assisted with making this event possible.
- April 2005 – The “Imagine” event was held at the Forest Mall in Fond du Lac over a 3-week period. Over 1,000 students attended from schools in Fond du Lac, Dodge and Calumet counties. Many children also attended this event with their families and caregivers. Total attendance was over 2,200 persons. Children enjoyed exhibits in the Construction Zone, Imagination Theatre, and Little Lakeside. They were also able to do some hands-on learning with the Spanish Language Trees and Human Body Exhibit. Major event sponsors were Service League of Fond du Lac, Alliant Energy, KFIZ and Agnesian HealthCare.
- April 2006 - The “Go Figure” event was held at Windhover Center for the Arts from April 1, 2006 through April 30, 2006. Nearly 3,000 visitors attended including 1,500 visitors that participated in fieldtrips with their schools, daycares, scouting groups and ARC organizations. The fieldtrip groups came from Fond du Lac, Dodge, Calumet and Winnebago Counties. Children from out of Wisconsin visited with grandparents looking for quality entertainment over the Spring Break period. Children enjoyed the “Go Figure” exhibit which was rented from the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Other featured areas included the Pizza Parlor, Spanish Language Trees, Body Basics Area, Construction Zone, Imagination Station / Stage area and Little Lakeside (specially designed for infants and toddlers). Major event sponsors included: Agnesian HealthCare, JF Ahern, Hierl Insurance, The Oakmark International Funds, and Service League of Fond du Lac.
Generation 3: Downtown Fond du Lac
After receiving tremendous support from the community and individuals throughout the Midwest, the Museum opened its first location on December 17, 2007, inside the beautifully restored Windhover Center of the Arts. The Museum served the entire region with its educational and fun exhibits, offering an interactive learning environment for children age birth through eleven and their caregivers. It featured hands-on exhibits, each set in a different country. In addition to providing exhibits, the museum also offered field trips, birthday parties, summer programs and more.
Two highlighted educational programs were Livin’ on the Ledge and Amazon Adventures. The Livin’ on the Ledge class was designed to enhance students’ knowledge of the Niagara Escarpment. The class was later redeveloped into an educational program for 4th grade group trips. Livin’ on the Ledge was funded in part by the Wisconsin Humanities Council. Amazon Adventures was the Museum’s first educational outreach program which went into area 3rd grade classrooms. This week-long program engaged students in STEM and develop 21st century learning skills. Amazon Adventures was funded in part by the Institute of Museums and Library Services.
The Museum welcomed over 100,000 visitors during our time in Downtown Fond du Lac, ending December 2012. We were proud to be a part of the many offerings at the Windhover Center for the Arts, where families and community came together in downtown Fond du Lac!
Generation 4: Lakeside Park Area Expansion and Relocation
In summer 2013 we reopened in our new home in the Waterfront District on 75 W. Scott Street, featuring expanded exhibits, classroom space and a specially designed outdoor area.
Click here for more information on how you can “Grow With Us”.
Click here for more information on the new exhibits.