The Power of Play

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
The Iowa Children's Museum
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

The mission of The Iowa Children’s Museum is to inspire every child to imagine, create, discover, and explore through the power of play. The Museum serves this mission through quality interactive exhibits, engaging hands-on programs, and diverse community outreach.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The Iowa Children’s Museum is a vibrant hands-on learning facility for children and their families. With an annual visitation of more than 125,000 children and adults, the museum is one of the largest cultural attractions in Iowa.

The museum opened in 1999 with 6,000 square feet of venue space featuring two exhibits focused on science and dramatic play. The Museum now houses 28,000 square feet of exhibits focused on science, math, social studies, art, literacy, and dramatic play. Through diverse exhibits and programs for preschool and elementary age children, The Iowa Children’s Museum has become a treasured part of the community and an important educational resource for Iowa families.

Providing changing exhibits and expanded programming over these past ten years has caused Museum attendance to rise an astounding 76%! The success our growing organization has achieved in accomplishing our mission to best serve children and their families would not be possible without our improved ability to use technology in our day-to-day operations. Microsoft programs and services have greatly helped us maximize our ability to deliver the power of play. Our purchases of Office 2007, Windows Vista, and Windows small Business Server have enabled museum staff to make the most of the each visitor’s experience by transforming our behind-the-scenes administrative work to become more efficient and accurate. Some of the most important ways that Microsoft has optimized the delivery of our mission are:

1. The first five years of business, our museum computers were not interfaced. We added a Microsoft Windows Small Business Server and now have access to all of our computers through a secure server. This enables museum staff to share information easily and accurately resulting in improved productivity and accuracy.

2. Until a few years ago, all computer data was backed up manually using zip drives. With the Windows Small Business Server all of our data is automatically backed up daily both on our on-site server and at a secure off-site location. The museums’ new ability to preserve our data provides a stable infrastructure for our work.

3. Before purchasing Office 2007, our donor database existed on three different computers using three different software programs. With Microsoft Excel, we created one Master donor Database that is used by staff for fundraising, special programs, and marketing efforts. The new Master database results in increased efficiency and accuracy in the essential act of communicating with our clientele.

4. Prior to using Office 2007, each staff person had an individual calendar and could only share information verbally or via email. Microsoft Outlook enables us to share our calendars electronically greatly improving the communication between staff members and resulting in our ability to better serve our museum visitors and much happier staff.

5. The museum’s Master Calendar of Programs and Activities used to be a large wall chart that had all data entered manually with markers. Every change meant numerous scribbles and the calendar could only be accessed in our conference room. With Microsoft Outlook, all museum events are now scheduled on a single electronic Master Calendar accessible to all staff at all times. The Master Calendar also interfaces with our website allowing us to be timely and accurate. This has made a tremendous difference in our ability to best serve our clientele with current museum information.

6. The museum has a very popular Art Adventure! program consisting of monthly artist facilitated workshops for families. Prior to installing Office 2007, we tracked all program data manually in a Word table. Now all program data is tracked on an Excel spreadsheet creating a database of attendees, artists, evaluation data, and a calendar. The ability to create this database has enabled us to better manage the program and create better program reports to our grant funders.

7. Staff members give numerous presentations to community organizations to promote the children’s museum. Prior to Office 2007, we used print charts, blown-up photos, etc. Using PowerPoint, we created a professional presentation that is much more effective in getting our message out and can be updated instantly. Our PowerPoint presentation is filled with photos of children playing in the museum resulting in increased support from the community for our non-profit organization.

8. The Iowa Children’s Musuem has a special program that awards free museum memberships to economically disadvantaged families. Prior to using Office 2007, we tracked the program data in a Word table. By creating an Excel database, we have greatly improved our ability to track and communicate with the families this program serves resulting in the children’s museum becoming more accessible to those children who most need enrichment opportunities.

Since integrating Microsoft technology to our organization, The Iowa Children’s Museum has seen dramatic changes in the delivery of our mission that include:• 76% increase in attendance• 10% increase in number of economically disadvantaged families we serve• 25% increase in volunteer recruitment • Increased proficiency in grant reporting• Increased staff satisfaction and contentment with work environment• New art programs and field trip opportunities initiated• New fundraising events initiated

David Elkind is an American child psychologist and author. His most recent research discusses how play is essential to positive human development but children are playing less than in previous eras. Elkind states, “At a time of great international turmoil, growing globalization and exploding technological advances, making time for children to play seems an unaffordable luxury. Yet, a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics makes just the opposite case. It argues for the essential role of play in the healthy mental, physical, social and emotional development of the child.”

The Iowa Children’s Museum understands the critical role of play in learning and human development and successfully provides a family-friendly environment that stimulates learning for children of all abilities and interests. Children who play to learn at the museum construct knowledge about the world through the diverse experiences that occur in our exhibits and special programs, making play a powerful learning tool. The Iowa Children’s Museum is for all children, including those who have learning disabilities, special physical needs, emotional challenges, and the hundreds of thousands of children who simply need a nurturing environment where they can just be kids and play.

Our organization is so grateful to have the opportunity to utilize Microsoft technology to enable us to deliver on our promise to maximize the Power of Play for all children. Thank you!

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery