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STEPPING STONES MUSEUM FOR CHILDREN COMES TO FAIRFIELD COUNTY

Fairfield County now has its own hands-on, interactive museum for children ages one to ten. Stepping Stones Museum for Children, located in Mathews Park in Norwalk, opened to the public on March 11, 2000.

"We did a great deal of research and discovered that a vast majority of parents and educators felt the need for a resource of this kind in our area," said Marjorie Priebe of New Canaan. Priebe is the founder of the project and president of the Board of Directors.

With no comparable facility closer than New York City or Providence, Stepping Stones is a unique facility for all children throughout the area, Priebe said.

The museum's mission is to broaden and enrich educational opportunities for children up to age ten, and to enhance their understanding of the world around them.

Museum exhibits focus on three broad subject areas central to children's education: the arts; science and technology; and culture and heritage. Current exhibits include a 27-foot tall giant kinetic sculpture called the Color Coaster (the only permanent exhibit) designed by George Rhoads, the Toddler Terrain, Waterscape, Express Yourself!, In the Works and I Spy Connecticut.

"The exhibits have been designed to appeal to and educate children of different age groups and to provide each child with a different experience each time he or she visits the museum," said Priebe.

The museum also supports parents, caregivers and educators by offering educational programs and providing resource materials. In the Resource Center, soon to open in the museum's West Wing, visitors will be able to continue and build on the learning experience gained in the galleries.

Teachers will be able to find curriculum-related reference materials, identify activities they can use in teaching and record and exchange ideas. Parents can access ideas and materials for at-home activities related to the concepts their children will learn at the museum.

The Learning Lab, located in the East Wing, is a 900 square-foot flexible use room with kitchen facilities and program materials that accommodates functions ranging from educational workshops to children's birthday parties.

The Performance Gallery is an indoor/outdoor theater offering a venue for professional performances and community events, as well as a backdrop for theatrical play by museum visitors with exhibitry and props to encourage fantasy and imagination. Examples of future programming in the Performance Gallery include: children's theater performances and educational workshops; storytelling and puppetry; and interactive technology programs connecting Stepping Stones with other museums' lecture series and seminars.

The Outdoor Celebration Space is a quarter-circle shaped, 8,000 square foot landscaped area, which will provide space to hold programs or community events, and to simply enjoy the outdoors.

Stepping Stones has recently completed an $11 million campaign to raise the funds needed to design and construct the museum facilities, create the interactive exhibits and develop educational programs and resources. Donations have come from individuals, corporations and foundations from around the area.

The museum's five-acre site is centrally located at the junction Of 1-95 and Route 7, in a park that is already home to historic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion and the Connecticut Graphic Arts Center. A city-state redevelopment plan is underway to create a riverside park linking Mathews Park to the nearby Maritime Aquarium.

  

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