A Sense of Place
Built in 1913, a former schoolhouse became a symbol of downtown renewal for the community of Boynton Beach, FL, when it re-opened in 2002 as the Schoolhouse Children's Museum.
Providing a sense of place for young children, ages 4-8, the museum is devoted to the region's history. Cia Mooney was the consultant selected to plan, research and design the visitor experience and exhibitions.
Nickelodeon Parents' Choice Winner and nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service
Our Story Begins
In the 1850s, before Henry Flagler's railroad connected the northern US to Florida, early settlers dotted the shoreline battling monster mosquitoes, malaria, hungry alligators and a rebellious Seminole tribe.
Clipper ships loaded with cypress lumber and produce navigated the treacherous reefs off the Florida coastline, often wrecking near a particularly dangerous stretch at Jupiter. The maritime insurance industry pressured Congress to build Florida's first lighthouses. After many false starts, the Jupiter Lighthouse was finally completed in 1860.
Reference: Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse by James Snyder
A Robot in the Lighthouse
When children arrive at the museum, they are greeted by a 2-story lighthouse exhibit. The Jupiter Lighthouse was a critical beacon along the Atlantic coast and from its location, a small community began to thrive.
"Knock, Knock!" on the lighthouse door and the robotic lighthouse keeper, Hannibal Pierce, appears from the window. With a friendly chuckle and a grin, he recalls Florida's early pioneer days when he was the assistant lighthouse keeper at the Jupiter Lighthouse.
Exhibits engage children in pioneer life near the lighthouse as they learn to discover Florida's history in their own backyards.
Farming in Florida
Farming is a way of life in Florida, but often distant to the contemporary world. Near the town of Jupiter, bell peppers still grow on low shrub-like plants across acres and acres. They are cared for by the same families for multiple generations with the help of migrant farm workers from Central America.
At the Museum, displays and oral histories connect children to real farming families and the people who grew the local community.
Children can pedal a tractor that drives red, yellow and green balls high up to the ceiling where they drop into chutes that feed a row of faux pepper plants. They can pick the peppers and take them to the packing shed to be counted, washed and sorted by color (critical early education skills for young children).
Florida's dairy farms, many still family-owned, are primarily Holstein farms (the black and white dairy cow). The counties near Jupiter produce most of the state's dairy products.
Very Young Children
The Boynton Beach Hotel was an inn established by Nathan Boynton, a former civil war major from Michigan, as a summer residence for his family and guests.
The hotel exhibit is an intimate setting intended for pretend play with sit-down tea table and chairs. The pace of this exhibit and its learning objectives are intended for parent-child interactions and imaginary role-playing. Dress-up clothing is located in each exhibit area to support the story-telling.
Life in the Mangrove
Along Florida's coastal waterways and in the Everglades, the mangrove is the protective nursery to creatures, large and small.
Designed for very young children, the Mangrove exhibit is is an immersive experience filled with sensory and tactile discovery. Built as a crawl-through landscape, the Mangrove also provides an educational backdrop for staff-led learning.