New KidZone director eyes the future | SierraSun.com

New KidZone director eyes the future

Renée Shadforth
Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Carol Meagher, the new executive director of the KidZone, Megan Hirsch and Hannah Sandles explore the KidZone's tide pool exhibit.
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For Carol Meagher, taking the top job at the KidZone Museum was a no-brainer. It’s a place where she has volunteered; it’s also where her two children play.”I wasn’t looking for a job, but these jobs don’t show up very often,” said Meagher, the KidZone’s new executive director.The consummate volunteer, Meagher is the PTO president at Glenshire Elementary, an AYSO soccer coach and a committee member for Measure A, the school district’s parcel tax. And on and off for seven years she has volunteered for the KidZone, an activity and learning center for children, formerly called the Sierra Nevada Children’s Museum.Meagher has a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation and has worked for the Truckee Donner Land Trust and in Tahoe Forest Hospital’s extended care center.When former Executive Director Barbara Wilkinson announced her resignation from the KidZone earlier this year, Meagher saw an opportunity to improve upon the museum’s current 3,600-square-foot building, a place she has taken her two children to since it opened in June 2002.In her first week Meagher has taken it slow, researching where the KidZone stands financially and in the community. Since the KidZone is a nonprofit organization, community support is a pivotal part of the center’s viability.

“Funding – that’s the thing that makes me nervous,” Meagher said. “How can we continue to provide the great programs we always have?”With the support of the KidZone board of directors, she said she also wants to cultivate the museum’s current staff – whom she calls the KidZone’s “best asset” – by giving them more responsibility.Though she is taking small bites at first – working on the operational elements of her job – Meagher still has her eye on a larger prize: a new, larger facility for the KidZone.”On Saturdays during the winter, this place reaches capacity,” Meagher said.Currently, the KidZone is directed toward children younger than 6. The new facility would also serve children older than 5 years old, a demographic often left out due to space constraints, Meagher said.Meagher said she also sees an opportunity to build community partnerships with the museum. Glenshire Elementary Principal Kathleen Gauthier said the KidZone could be a valuable resource for her students, especially when learning material that isn’t included in traditional textbooks, like Truckee history.And Gauthier said if anyone can bring together community partnerships, it’s Meagher.

“We have the biggest group we’ve ever had on our PTO,” Gauthier said. “She’s just able to bring people together in such an easygoing way.”Since it opened in June 2002, former director Wilkinson led the KidZone to a significant boost in support. The center struggled to open its doors in 2001 with its $400,000 construction cost, but with community support it opened the following June.In contrast, the museum raked in more than $30,000 in donations in one night at its Mardi Gras fund-raiser in April.People have noted the importance of the KidZone, Gauthier said.”We listen to our kids growing up here and they say there’s nothing to do,” she said. “These parents and community have really taken the bull by the horns and made it happen.”

Check it outSummer activities at the KidZoneFamily summer nights: July 27 Aug. 17, 5:30 8 p.m., home cookin’, music, sing alongs, science for kids, art projects and more, members and children free, $6 for non-member adults.Watershed Science Camp: Session I: July 5 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Session II: Aug. 9 13, 9 a.m. to noon; for children entering second through fourth grade; $55 for members, $60 for non-members, scholarships available.Messy Art Class: Mondays, July 12 21, 10 11 a.m., $4 for members, $6 for non-members, scholarships available.For more information, contact the KidZone at 587-KIDS or http://www.kidzonemuseum.org.