Education Spotlight: Merced Kids Discovery Museum combines fun and learning

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

A new children's museum in the North Valley is looking for sponsors. The Kids Discovery Station celebrated its official opening earlier this month.

Landon Burke learned how the museum combines fun and learning.

Landon: Talk me through how this museum came to be.

Mayya Tokman: So I have a nine-year-old son, and as any parent who lives in Merced knows when it's about 120 degrees outside, and your child is just jumping off the walls and because it's a boy who has a lot of energy, for example, or it could be a girl who has a lot of energy, and there's not that many places around that you can take them to. I mean, yes there are scheduled activities. You know, there's sports, etc. But there isn't a place where you could go and just play, because the playgrounds are all hot, it's too hot to go outside, and you would love to be able to take your child and just be in a place where they can play and discover and learn. And this is how that idea was born: out of being a parent in Merced. So we started out in 2018. We had three pilot exhibits, so this was before his discovery station existed. And the first exhibit was at the multicultural Art Center for two weeks. We did not advertise, we didn't have the budget for advertising, and we only had a very, very small budget, with a small grant from First Five and UC Merced, UC Berkeley and UC Health. We over the course of two weeks, we got 1,000 visits. So, this was an indication that not only I feel like that, but a lot of other parents feel like that as well. We were actually competing with the Merced Fair, the county fair. In one week, we still got almost 1,000 visits. So then the second exhibit we did that August, and this was three weeks, and we got over 1,700 visits. So, you know, one exhibit after another, it was becoming very, very clear that the parents in Merced absolutely need a place like that. So this is kind of how the idea was born, and then we became a nonprofit, and now we're three years later, because we are open, we just opened a permanent location. I have a couple of notes we had the suggestion box in our first exhibit, and I have several notes, original notes that are remaining from that, and the most frequent suggestion was, "please make it permanent. We love it, please make it permanent."

Landon: What is your ultimate goal with the Kids Discovery Center?

Mayya: Our ultimate goal is to create an institution in the community where education and entertainment come together. I'm an educator, I've been in education for the last 13 years, and I'm very passionate about combining fun and learning because I believe that that's really the only way to learn. If you're engaged, and if you're having fun. If you're interested in something, the chances are that you will understand what are the concepts behind it are much higher.
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