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Multi-faceted museum liked on all sides


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The Bettendorf Children's Museum and the Cultural Arts Center recently merged to form the Family Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is housed in the new building at 2900 Learning Center Drive.

BETTENDORF -- An adult could spend hours, playing on computers, banging on intruments, making paper snowflakes, and jumping in and out of the psychadelic shadowbox.

But this is a children's museum.

``Kids don't come alone,'' Linda Hall, public relations coordinator for the Family Museum of Arts and Sciences in Bettendorf, said. ``The best kind of experience is when adults and children are interacting and questioning each other.''

That is one reason why, when Bettendorf Children's Museum recently relocated to 2900 Learning Center Drive, it shed its name and donned the family concept.

``We love to see them come as a family unit,'' Mrs. Hall said. ``A lot of grandparents come in with their grandkids, and that's perfect.''

The Family Museum opened in its new location adjacent to the Bettendorf Library on March 2, 1997. The opening also marked the physical merger of the Children's Museum and the Center for Cultural Arts.

The new building has five galleries, each housing a large educational, interactive exhibit.

The Homestead compares farm life in the 1940's and the 1990's. On the 40's side, kids can play checkers, pretend with a wood doll house, pump water, or learn about party phone lines.

In the 90's, kids can play computer games while sitting in a modern kitchen with all the appliances.

This also is a perfect opportunity for grandparents and children to interact, Mrs. Hall said. Grandma can demonstrate what she played with when she was a child.

The pre-school area is fenced in so big kids don't trample the little ones. Here, children who might not be able to play on the computer can play in a makeshift sand box, with stuffed animals, or on indoor equipment.

Pre-schoolers' moms may suddenly decide to bring their kids to the museum so they can relax and visit while the youngsters play, Mrs. Hall said.

Entering Rhythm Alley is a musical delight. The way is marked by colorful lights on the floor. When you step on them, different notes ring out.

The area is wonderful for kids who love to bang. It has five Pentaphone keyboards: glass, wood, steel, aluminum and bamboo, so children can discover different sounds.

It also has a Clavinova, programmed with 400 instrument sounds.

On one wall, children can press buttons to listen to blues, folk, country, classical, rock and jazz music. Children and adults alike can listen to a recorded performance by Bix Beiderbecke.

Heartland features a cafe with play food and boothes, but also teaches about healthy food.

A section of this exhibit is dedicated to teaching about giving blood.

It also has a plastic cadaver so students can examine body parts, if they can handle it.

Two exercise bikes, one adult-sized and one kid- sized, are next to each other, in case the family wants to exert some extra energy.

The last gallery is reserved for the traveling exhibit, which starting March 7, will be ``Earth 2U, Exploring Geography,'' from the Smithsonian Institute and the National Geographic Society.

The museum also has seven classroom and a dance hall that can be split into three units. These rooms are especially helpful, considering the nearly endless number of classes offered by the museum. The space is an improvement from the single classroom at the old building.

Another exciting area is the ``Kingson for Kids,'' a huge, outdoor playground designed by area children in cooperation with Saturn of the Quad Cities, which donated materials and building time.

Filled with so much fun and educational facets, the museum is a perfect field trip for students of area schools. If a class can't come to the museum, a volunteer will go to the classroom with a kit and talk.

Birthday parties also can be held in the museum.

With so much going on, Mrs. Hall said she could not do without the help of more than 200 adult and youth volunteers.

Juliet Hardy, a visitors service volunteer, comes twice a month to help in the museum.

``I do it because I have the time,'' she said. ``I'm retired, and I enjoy meeting people and talking to them. Everybody on staff is nice and cooperative and they appreciate our efforts.''

Mrs. Hardy runs the cash register and helps those that run the craft activites by preparing materials. Other volunteers work in the galleries, helping children with toys or computer programs.

``It's personally rewarding,'' Mrs. Hardy said. ``It's a way of giving back to the community.''

-- By Kristen Koht (January 26, 1998)

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