Visalia's ImagineU Children's Museum gets hefty grant

VISALIA, Calif.

The new ImagineU Museum will be located on Santa Fe at Douglass Streets in Visalia.

Officials are ready to build a 13-thousand square foot facility just a few blocks north of the original building. All dedicated to teaching children about nature conservation, science and literally the fruits of the Valley.

Officials at Visalia's ImagineU Interactive Children's Museum say the plans for their new facility prove the museum will be the only one of its kind in the Central Valley.

Cheryl Christman said, "It's been kind of a wasteland here in terms of children's museums and anything of this caliber, there won't be anything like it for miles and miles around."

Opening in 2002, the educational and interactive museum has everything from science exhibits, an intricate train set, music and other activities for children to explore their talents.

Lately, though, employees here felt they needed a bigger facility to better serve the educational needs of local children.

This week, the ImagineU Museum learned they were awarded a $5.6 million grant from the state to build an environmentally-friendly, interactive museum.

Some of the exhibits will showcase the Valley's ag industry -- a packing house room where kids can pick an orange off tree, measure, weigh and sort it -- an outdoor water feature that shows how the water travels from the Sierra and is used for farms and cities, an outdoor amphitheater, nature walk and much more.

Museum Director, Virginia Strawser said, "In the very center of the museum will be this huge majestic oak tree where the kids will be able to climb up inside and up into the branches."

Parents here are excited, especially after the recent closure of Fresno's Met Museum.

Betsy Howland said, I just hope it gets people to get their kids out of the house away from the TV to experience something else something different."

Strawser said, "There's nothing like this around you have things like this in San Francisco and you have things like this in Los Angeles but those things are a long ways."

ImagineU actually has some of the Fresno Met's exhibits here too.

Employees say this grant only funds the building and they continue to rely solely on donations to support staff and other functions.

The building will break ground this summer and open in two years.

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