HELENA — ExplorationWorks has been closed to the public since March due to the pandemic. During that time, the nonprofit education museum has found ways to adapt while also helping their community.
Since September ExplorationWorks has been providing child care for children of St. Peter’s Health staff.on school days where classes are held remotely.
“Being that school is so irregular this year, many [St. Peter’s families] didn’t have anywhere to put their kids,” said Enrichment Program Supervisor Jami Campbell.
The program focuses on helping with homework with one-on-one help while also providing games and crafts for the kids to participate in.
“We have set aside schoolwork time. The great thing about it is we do have the staff to offer tutoring or one-on-one help to those that do need it,” said Campbell. “We also have a great space for them to run around and be energetic and separate places for quiet time.”
Finding childcare during the pandemic has been a difficult task for many families. Many child care organizations are only taking a fraction of the kids they normally would due to COVID.
Campbell says the staff are proud to be able to help take some stress off community frontline workers.
“We’ve provided an outlet so they know their kids are safe, they’re learning, they’re getting their homework done. it’s just an environment where they can make friends and have fun,” added Campbell.
The program was possible thanks to a School-Aged Child Care grant from CARES Act funding through the state. There have been 41 students and 28 families participating in the program since September.
Executive Director Kelly Posewitz says when the idea with St. Peter’s was first being floated; it just seemed like a great fit for the facility and museum staff during the pandemic.
“It’s just been wonderful to be able to do this and for us to have kids in the building,” said Posewitz. “There’s nothing worse that when this building is quiet and there’s no noise, it breaks my heart. To hear the laughter and have kids in the building just makes us all feel like we’re making a difference.”
Educating school-age children has always been a part of the mission of ExpolationWork. Since they first opened their doors they’ve offered classroom science education for homeschool students through Helena Public Schools in addition to their regular education programs.
Posewitz says ExplorationWorks has lost a lot of their standard income that supports their mission due COVID. This program has been a big help in getting them to the otherside of the pandemic along with their after school classes and summer camps.
Registration for ExplorationWorks 2021 summer camps recently opened and more information can be found on their website. They’re offering 80 camps this summer with slots for 880 students ages 4 and up.
ExplorationWorks are also working on re-opening plans with Lewis and Clark Public Health with the goal of initial opening on the weekends.
“Our plan is to reopen on weekends only and do timed tickets,” explained Posewitz. “So people would have a certain time they’d be able to come in here and visit .”
When ExplorationWork can reopen is very dependent on positive COVID case numbers in the county, but are hoping to begin their reopening sometime this spring.
Staff have been hard at work designing and adapting exhibits to be COVID friendly.