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This week, we talk with the new executive director of Kidzu Children's Museum, Pam Wall.
What drew you to Kidzu from your previous job at the Research Triangle Regional Partnership?
Well, it was a great opportunity for me for my last seven or eight years before I retire to do something that's really meaningful not only for me personally, but for the community of Chapel Hill and children. I'm a strong believer in early childhood education and kindergarten-ready kids, so it just seemed like a great opportunity for me to fit in my leadership skills, my fundraising skills and management skills, and do something that's really like a big hurrah for me.
What have you learned so far in your couple of months on the job?
Chapel Hill is a wonderful small-town-feeling community. The college students add a lot of vibrancy to the downtown. I'm really looking forward to developing our museum on the top of the Wallace Parking Deck because I think that will be a centerpiece for downtown and I think it will provide opportunities for our businesses here to grow by welcoming families and children. I've learned that Chapel Hill is all about the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon," but Chapel Hill is more like two degrees because everyone is connected in some really friendly relationships in so many ways. The town is so supportive of children's education and this museum, too. So I'm finding a really warm reception from everyone I sit down and talk to.
For downtown, how important do you think Kidzu will be as an anchor location?
The museum will be the centerpiece for Franklin St. and Rosemary St. Families can come and park in the parking deck, and we'll have walk-across bridges to the facility. We partner with so many organizations in the community that we will be taking kids and families on field trips and events from our space there to the Morehead Planetarium and to PlayMakers and to different head-start programs around town. We do cooking classes, so we'll move our kids down to The Siena to learn from the chef. So in addition to being the centerpiece, we will bring the centerpiece out into the community to engage the community. Another great thing about having the museum on the rooftop of the deck is we will have room to expand, so we'll build the core museum and as we have further demands to grow, we'll be able to expand the museum.
If you were a kid what would be your favorite part of Kidzu?
Oh, there are so many fun parts of that museum, but I would have to say the farmers' market. It is so cute. We have a little stand, and the children can sell the little plastic vegetables or they can buy them. We have little cash registers there so they can do role playing as the farmer or as the customer. And they can take the vegetables they buy at the farmers' market and walk right across to our mill-house kitchen. They're designed around the mill houses in Carrboro, so we have a lot of local flavor. The whole theme is buy local -- support your local farmers. They can follow recipes; they can pretend to cook up their vegetables. We have a cute little chute that goes to a composting pile so they can learn about composting. There are little plastic worms in the composting pit. Oh my gosh. It's really a fun place.
Does being in charge of a children's museum keep you young at heart?
You go into the space, and they're running around and having so much fun. My daughter's 30 years old, so I'm getting excited about having grandchildren not too far down the road, but it reminds you of the fun things you did when your children were young. And the kids are so smart. They enjoy the hands-on pieces and enjoy the programming. It just really makes you feel good about what we're doing in the museum. TW