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Kids Give to Holiday Traditions at Children’s Museum

Saturday, December 23rd, 2023

Fond du Lac, Wis (December 5, 2023)  – Teachers and leaders of youth groups inspired children to donate their artistic talents to bring Trees Around the World to the community for the eleventh year in a row at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac (CMFDL). Elementary schools and community groups created homemade ornaments and tree toppers that are on display at CMFDL located at 75 W. Scott Street in Fond du Lac.  The exhibit opened on Giving Tuesday and will be viewable until January 7, 2024.  Guided tours to see the Trees Around the World display are free. Admission to the museum is $8/person (free for members).  Financial assistance available for those who qualify.

Trees Around the World decorations were created by students and youth at Lakeshore Elementary, Holyland Catholic School, St. Mary’s Springs Academy, Boy Scouts Pack 3707, Boys and Girls Club sites at Johnsonville Elementary and Teen Site, Pier, Parkside, Roberts, and Chegwin and Warbirds Girls Hockey. As a result of this generosity, museum visitors will enjoy the season’s spirit and learn holiday cultures and traditions from France, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Norway, Ireland, Israel, Native Americans, Canada, and the United States. 

In addition to giving, children and their families will enjoy regular programs and holiday favorites at CMFDL during the month of December including: Letters to Santa (all letters dropped off by December 16th will receive a hand written response from Santa or one of his elves), Passport to the Holidays (registration required for this special program for preschool aged children on Dec 5th, 12th and 19th), Pancake Breakfast with Santa (registration strongly encouraged for this event) on December 16th from 8am-12pm and Sensory Friendly Breakfast with Santa (December 16th from 12:30 – 1:30).  Special admission rates apply to holiday events, financial assistance is always available.  To learn more, visit cmfdl.org or call 920.929.0707.

Photo Caption: Children from Fond du Lac inspired to give their artistic talents to learn and provide others with opportunities to explore various countries and cultures with the Trees Around the World display, at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac from November 27th through January 7th, 2024. Chegwin Boys and Girls Club members enjoyed decorating their Spain inspired tree and are excited to share their creations with visitors of this special display. Admission to the museum is $8/person (free for members).  Financial assistance available.   For more information, contact the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac at (920) 929-0707 or info@cmfdl.org.

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Kids invited to have Pancakes and Visit with Santa at CMFDL

Friday, December 15th, 2023

Fond du Lac, Wis (December 13, 2023) – The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac (CMFDL) invites you to meet Santa, enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast and participate in fun family activities all while supporting Fond du Lac County’s Foster Care Program. This event will take place on Saturday, December 16 from 8am – 12pm with a Sensory Friendly offering from 12:30 – 1:30pm. Breakfast seatings will take place every half hour between 8am and 11:30am and have limited capacity, so preregistration is strongly recommended. 

This collaborative event was built on a goal to bring exposure to the need for foster families, especially right here in Fond du Lac County. Kelly Stahowiak, Social Worker Supervisor reflects, “here in Fond du Lac we have 156 kids in foster care at this time, and we do not have enough homes to place them in. There is a high need for emergency placement homes to help these kids have a healthy, happy home while their parents make improvements in their situation so the children can be returned home.” If you are interested in helping be a part of the solution, please call Kelly at (920) 929 – 3910 to learn more about the important role you can play in supporting these children.

Pancakes with Santa was built in conjunction with one of the CMFDL’s most popular family events of the year.  Visitors will have the opportunity to engage in “reindeer games”, decorate and play in CMFDL’s Gingerbread Village, decorate cookies in Festival Foods Cookie Shop, enjoy holiday caroling from the Waupun Choir and Fond du Lac High School Cardinal Singers, make handmade cards, and so much more! 

Registration for Pancakes with Santa is $10 for Members and $15 for Non-Members with proceeds directly benefiting the Fond du Lac Foster System. Registration information can be found at cmfdl.org and financial assistance is available by request.


The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac is located at 75 West Scott Street in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  For more information, go to cmfdl.org.

Photo caption:  Families are invited to the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac’s popular Pancakes with Santa event on Saturday, December 16. For more information or to sign up, visit cmfdl.org or call the CMFDL at 920-929-0707; registration is strongly encouraged.

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Fostering creativity at Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

FOND DU LAC (WLUK) — The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac brings curiosity and imagination to life. Hands-on exhibits help foster creative learning.

One such exhibit is the Holiday Automotive Tech Center. Executive Director Andrea Welsch joined Good Day Wisconsin to share more about the exhibit.

Watch the news segment here: https://fox11online.com/good-day-wi/fostering-creativity-at-childrens-museum-of-fond-du-lac

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Board’s Eye View

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021

A Board Member’s perspective of CMFDL:

I just wanted to share briefly about my experience with the museum, and how it has impacted my family.

We moved to town a little over 11 years ago, literally the week that our oldest child was born. We moved to a new town (with no family, and I had no friends here), started our own family, and I went from working a fast pace job as an auditor for a CPA firm in Madison to staying on in a limited PT remote role.  Three huge life changes within days of each other. Needless to say I felt quite adrift and alone. Fast forward almost a year and a half (plus another child), and I walked into the FDL children’s museum back when it was at the Windover Center. We bought an annual pass by the end of that month, and this was my weekly outing with our quickly growing family. From the moment we stepped in the doors and were greeted with the always smiling faces of the staff members, we felt welcomed and that we were home. My children were challenged with developmentally-appropriate activities, learned how to share and play parallel with others, and selfishly I enjoyed the fellowship of other moms that were in the same trench that I was in.  There are ladies here in the crowd that I have either met at the museum or spent numerous hours watching over our children together while walking through the various exhibits. I am now back into working full-time, but my parents (who have since moved to town) now have a grandparents membership and my kids still love coming to the museum. The children’s museum has helped make fond du lac become not just a city that we are living in, but a community that I feel is my home. The museum has given my family a decade worth of memories, from puppet shows of the speckled frogs, to eating more than my share of pizza, Halloween parties, and searching for Rudolph when attending Passport to the Holidays. So again, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your financial support, thank you for sharing the museum’s initiatives and stories within the community, thank you for something as simple as liking and sharing the museum’s posts on social media. Even the tiniest of actions can yield an enormous impact. Your support now is an investment in our community members and our future community leaders.

  • Ellen Kant, Treasurer
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Collaborate to Advocate: The Power of Collective Voice

Monday, September 20th, 2021

By Michael McHorney, Children’s Museum of Eau Claire; Deb Gilpin, Madison Children’s Museum; Anne Snow, Children’s Museum of LaCrosse; Andrea Welsch, Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac

This article is part of the “The Power of We: Local/Regional Support Networks Flourish” issue of Hand to Hand. Click here to read other articles in the issue.

When hearing the name of our state, Wisconsin, non-residents typically associate our culture with beer and cheese. Yes, Wisconsin leads the nation in cheese production and often ranks at or near the top in per capita rankings for beer consumption. Wisconsin also ranks first nationally in the production of horseradish, ginseng, and cranberries and is known for producing butter, bratwursts, and corn. Wisconsin also leads the nation in something else: it has the most children’s museums per capita in the United States. Basically, you could say folks from Wisconsin live in a state of PLAY.

The value of a regional or state children’s museum network cannot be over-estimated. Many function as key sounding boards and support groups for museum practitioners scattered around a broad area. They can also harness the expertise and reach of member museums to develop a more powerful collective voice, one that can be harder to escape the notice of local government leaders. There is indeed strength in numbers.

Children’s museums in Wisconsin have long been engaged in collaborative efforts. An annual gathering, which began in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 2009, has traveled the state ever since, increasing in participation and frequency. At these events, children’s museum professionals discuss thought-provoking ideas and share each other’s best practices. This collaboration, known as Wisconsin Children’s Museums (WICM) has resulted in greater quality for exhibits and programs and nearly doubled children’s museum traffic from just over 500,000 (2009) to nearly 1 million (2019). To assist in navigating the pandemic, WICM held virtual meetings almost weekly. Discussions concentrated on uncovering critical and necessary funding sources and sharing best practices around reopening.

In November 2020, after working together to research state funding opportunities, more than a dozen children’s museums shared a combined total of $650,000 in COVID relief funding from the Wisconsin Department of Administration. This modest portion of statewide funding, available to all arts and cultural organizations, helped some children’s museums in the state, but more support is needed. Recently, members of the group again put their heads together to create messages for their county executives, mayors/city managers, etc. A powerful letter, signed by the group, details how children’s museums play an essential role in healthy, thriving communities and asks for their support in allocating American Rescue Plan funds to keep museums alive. It is hoped that these latest joint communication efforts will lead to additional opportunities for Wisconsin children’s museums to collectively advance goals of the Department of Children and Families and Department of Education, as well as provide critical support for our community’s children as they are healing from the effects of the pandemic.

What started as a group meeting periodically to share best practices has evolved into a collaborative that meets bi-weekly to coordinate and discuss museum issues and trends. Our first statewide project in 2018 implemented the national initiative Prescription for Play (RX4P) through a state media campaign in cooperation with medical institutions and pediatricians.

Wisconsin children’s museums demonstrated how effective the statewide partnership can be in this campaign, which highlighted information released by the American Academy of Pediatrics about the importance of play to a child’s health and development. A plan created collaboratively by the Fond du Lac and Madison Children’s Museums was endorsed and supported by all thirteen children’s museums in the state. On a single day, the campaign reached more than 100,000 people through social media posts alone. In addition, approximately two dozen healthcare entities and local radio and television outlets joined forces to shed light on a topic that directly impacts social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development of children.

Collaborating with colleagues from around the state allowed us to effectively and creatively develop a unique Wisconsin Prescription for Play logo and press release that each museum could customize, resulting in sweatshirts, stickers, signage, and opportunities to incorporate expertise from physicians in our own communities. Working smarter, not harder, we reached more people in a more impactful way. These efforts were acknowledged by the Association of Children’s Museums, who invited us to present the results of our awareness campaign in a national webinar.

Andrea Welsch, Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac

Wisconsin Children’s Museums have moved from intermittent to consistent advocacy of play, starting through relationship building at our annual Children’s Museum Day at the Capitol. This became the foundation for realizing outcomes for positioning children’s museums as major partners of state government. In January 2019, Madison Children’s Museum hosted the Governor Evers’ Madison Kid’s Gala, and Michael McHorney was appointed by Governor Evers to the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board. In 2020, all children’s museums were successful in receiving COVID funding relief. These three examples were direct results of that initial relationship building.

Governor Evers leveraged our audience reach when he hosted three Inaugural Kid’s Galas across the state, in children’s sites, two of them children’s museums. In Madison, he funded a free Saturday at the museum, but he won us over when he held a press conference in the museum, but only took questions from kids. The press conference made it clear—the welfare of children would be front and center in his new administration.

Deb Gilpin, Madison Children’s Museum

Momentum has been building, but more work is needed. Moving forward, efforts will involve telling the story of children’s museums and how they are an essential part of a thriving community. And thriving communities mean a flourishing state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin children’s museum group’s latest project involves a push to educate the citizens of Wisconsin on the inequities surrounding pandemic relief funding.

Over the past twenty-five years in the field, I have witnessed children’s museums evolve from “a nice thing to have” to being an important resource, not only to families but also to communities. Some of our largest employers use the museum as a recruiting tool. They bring potential new hires to visit the museum when touring the city. Our statewide network of children’s museums makes the state a great place to work and live.

Anne Snow, Children’s Museum of La Crosse

The value of a regional or state children’s museum network cannot be over-estimated. Many function as key sounding boards and support groups for museum practitioners scattered around a broad area. They can also harness the expertise and reach of member museums to develop a more powerful collective voice, one that can be harder to escape the notice of local government leaders. There is indeed strength in numbers. State networks like the Wisconsin Children’s Museums are showing the potential of strategic solidarity to support each other and advocate for the children and families in the communities they serve.

Michael McHorney is executive director of the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire; Deb Gilpin is president and CEO of Madison Children’s Museum; Anne Snow is founder and executive director of the Children’s Museum of La Crosse; and Andrea Welsch is the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac. They are all located in Wisconsin.

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‘Tashi Deley:’ Fond du Lac community launches initiative on honoring others, celebrating differences

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Daphne Lemke Fond du Lac Reporter

FOND DU LAC – “Tashi Deley” is a Tibetan greeting that author Rebecca Braden, the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac and Sophia Transformative Leadership Partners are using to encourage participants to celebrate the beauty of diversity.

Rather than “hello,” the saying (pronounced Taa-SHE Duh-LAY) translates to “I honor the greatness in you,” according to Braden’s children’s book, “Sanjaygawa and the Yak Whisperer.”

The Children’s Museum launched the Tashi Deley initiative as this month’s installment of its regular educational fun kits, but the message and impact will last long after February’s over. 

The kit includes one copy of “Sanjaygawa and the Yak Whisperer” per household, plus one resource packet per child, which includes four written activity sheets and materials for a hands-on craft project.

The Children's Museum of Fond du Lac launched an initiative in February around the phrase "Tashi Deley," a Tibetan greeting that means "I honor the greatness in you." Rebecca Braden's book "Sanjaygawa and the Yak Whisperer" is a main focus.
The Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac launched an initiative in February around the phrase “Tashi Deley,” a Tibetan greeting that means “I honor the greatness in you.” Rebecca Braden’s book “Sanjaygawa and the Yak Whisperer” is a main focus.

The Tashi Deley initiative is offered in collaboration with Sophia Transformative Leadership Partners, a Fond du Lac nonprofit organization that guides local servant leaders — leaders whose philosophy is to serve their industry by sharing power and focusing on employees’ or members’ needs — with learning programs and tools.

“(Tashi Deley) really means, ‘I honor the place in you,’ where your hopes, your dreams, your love and your courage reside,” Braden said in an interview with Sophia Transformative Leadership Partners, published on its YouTube channel. “I honor that place in you, where if you’re in that place with you, and I’m in that place with me, then we’re one.”

Braden’s book tells the story of a young shepherdess in the Colorado Rockies that whispers “wonderings” to her yaks, and one day, she wonders something that prompts her favorite yak, Sanjaygawa, to finally answer her. 

The yak encourages the shepherdess to teach the “Young Ones” to respect and honor the greatness in themselves and everyone around them, regardless of their differences.

Using this message, the Children’s Museum and local educators are encouraging the same in the community and beyond.

“Truly, change in this world starts with the children,” Marketing and Communications Manager Kelly Lamb said.

Kits are available at the Children’s Museum, 75 W. Scott St., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, and from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Additionally, Sophia Partners is hosting this month’s virtual Community of Practice sessions with Braden, including the Leaders do Lunch event at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, discussing the connection of “Tashi Deley” to servant leadership.

Registration is available at sophiapartners.org/events.

‘Tashi Deley’ will spread beyond February

The Children’s Museum and Sophia Partners were not unfamiliar with Braden and her book, as Braden had previously been a guest at Sophia Partners as a servant leader herself. The stars seemed to have aligned for this initiative to be launched now, Lamb said, when the community needs a reminder to honor the greatness in others.

The book is written as a “story of hope for Young Ones of all ages,” according to the title page, because its message is helpful to adults as well. As part of the initiative, parents are encouraged to read the book to their children and help them through the activities so that they also internalize the need to honor and celebrate the differences in others.

Beyond families, this initiative is coming to local classrooms as well, Lamb said. In a few pilot classrooms, partnering educators will implement the Tashi Deley activity kit curriculum in their lessons. From there, the initiative can adjust and expand into classrooms and children’s museums outside of Fond du Lac.

In a time when the Children’s Museum can’t host field trips and children aren’t able to go many places, the Tashi Deley activities allow for continued engagement in a creative way, especially since it ties strongly into the existing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, Executive Director Andrea Welsch said.

The pilot classrooms include first- and third-grade classes at Mayville and Lomira elementary schools and St. Mary’s Springs Academy, as well as Treffert Way School for the Exceptional Mind. Participating educators can use the book and activities as a resource to supplement their curriculum goals.

Tiffany Dolan of Treffert Way is one of the participating educators, and will use the materials with her second- through fifth-graders during part of her morning advisory time.

“In class, we have recently been focusing on gratitude and happiness,” she said. “I think my students will enjoy the lessons, focusing on what makes others great and how we can help and honor others to find success and happiness.”

In the community, local “Activity Ambassadors” are also contributing through a series of interviews, each corresponding with one of the written activities, that will be streamed on the Children’s Museum’s Facebook page.

Braden is one of these ambassadors, and is joined by Keywon Brown, Fond du Lac Police Department’s Computer Forensic Investigator and founder of volunteer project Life Enforcement, which focuses on selfless acts of kindness to make a difference in the community.

Fond du Lac Literary Services Coordinator Juana Montes-Hernandez and local band Northsoul member Travis Worth will also lend their thoughts in inspiring the community to learn about recognizing and honoring the greatness in others.

“One thing children’s museums are known for in the community is teaching kids about social issues,” Welsch said. “Tashi Deley will inspire these kind of conversations.”

For anyone who can’t make it to the Children’s Museum this month, the activity sheets are available on cmfdl.org, alongside a recording of Braden reading “Sanjaygawa and the Yak Whisperer.”

Contact Daphne Lemke at 920-907-7968 or dlemke@gannett.com.

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Supporting Brain Development through FREE Museum Program

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

On Sunday, January 19th from 12:00 – 2:00pm the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac will be hosting a Baby Networking event. This event is being offered free of charge to “First Time” parents, with children up to the age of 18 months.  Guests will enjoy playful music and immersive activities for their young museum explorers! In a survey of museum visitors, 100% of those with infants up to 18 months (who also had older children) wished that they had been introduced to the museum earlier with their first child. The First Time Parents Program not only gives families the ability to visit the museum for free year-round, but it also introduces them to a wide array of child development and early enrichment programs such as “Music, Museum, and Me”, “Mini Monets”, and “Brain Builders”.   In addition to networking with other young families, first time parents will receive a free annual membership for babies 18 months and under (limited to first 50 families), made possible through the generosity of museum donors. Please call the museum at (920)929-0707 to register for the event and reserve your membership!

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