The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and VSA Arts announced at their annual meeting in Boston that the Creative Discovery Museum of Chattanooga has won one of three national awards for exhibits and initiatives that demonstrate learning standards for inclusive practice.
Creative Discovery Museum is one of three museums nation-wide to receive the 2005 Universal Design for Learning Award. The award is a $15,000 grant to support programs that increase access to art and education through the arts for children with disabilities. Recipients must develop replicable models of their programs for application in other museums across the nation. Award winners were selected by an impartial committee of museum professionals.
“We are particularly proud of this award because it honors our staff, who celebrate the abilities of all children, and it recognizes our commitment to be as accessible as possible to all the families and children of our community,” said the museum’s executive director, Henry Schulson, who has headed the organization since June of 1997. He accepted the award at ACM’s annual InterActivity conference in Boston.
Club Discovery was developed in 2000 as an after school program for children with visual impairments and other disabilities. It is designed to engage children (both with and without special needs) in learning through creative exploration, through the guidance of Museum experts in the arts and sciences, and through museum exhibits.
The museum works to include children who might not otherwise participate in a museum experience or a school field trip. Museum experts engage Club Discovery members in activities that include team building and personal discovery, in an effort to help them grow as lifelong museum goers and volunteers. Club Discovery is designed for children with special needs, ages 8- to 12-years-old, and their typically developing peers. After age 12, Club Discovery graduates can move into CDM’s Museum Apprentice Program and become teen volunteers.
The museum feels it has achieved its goals when children with special needs learn to be comfortable and confident when they visit and explore any museum environment, officials said. After completing Club Discovery’s program, participating children receive a family membership to the museum. As members, children and their families continue to visit the museum and build on the educational foundation that was laid out during the program, it was stated.
Randy Jestice, assistant volunteer manager, and Joshua Wall work on collages for museum guests