BY SHERRY DEAN CURRERI
Imagine if you could help children create a better world in the future through the way they learn to play today. That is the goal of the Zimmer Children’s Museum in Los Angeles, where an interactive environment allows children to go on rescue missions with ambulances, fire trucks, and Coast Guard boats.
Zimmer Chiildren’s Museum began some 21 years ago utilizing a small space within another agency but, thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Zimmer Board and the leadership of its tireless Founder/Chief Executive Officer Esther Netter, Zimmer has grown into its current 10,000 square foot space on Wilshire Boulevard.
“We wanted to create experiential learning opportunities that were very much enriched with arts experiences but that also focused on teaching those similar big ideas of global citizenship, of engagement in community, of finding your own voice and your own capacity to be a leader and then acting on it and really making a difference,” says Netter.
In addition to running regular museum programs where parents can bring their children and schools can go on field trips, Netter has created a way for Zimmer Children’s Museum to go directly into schools with its youTHink program. “youTHink has evolved over the years as this museum-without-walls experience that actually takes place in upper elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, with service learning and community service events, leadership training, and advocacy programs that happen here at the museum and at a number of different places throughout the city and the state.”
At the newly expanded museum, kids can let their imaginations soar. According to Museum Director Julee Brooks, “the mission of the Zimmer celebrates responsibility and environmental stewardship; helping kids create a community they’d like to see.
“It’s an experiential, hands-on museum, so everything about the Zimmer Children’s Museum is completely interactive and is designed to put the child in charge. Children act as chefs in the cafe, and then deliver it to their parents, rather than in the home setting where their parents typically deliver it to them. They pilot the plane, they put on shows for their parents. Here, they are driving the boat, so to speak.”
Netter says the museum gets very little funding from government agencies and could not survive without the generosity of corporate partners such as Hasbro, Sony, and other visionary donors.