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BFK News

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This year, the Building for Kids is spending the month of December exploring celebrations from around the world!

We’re offering four different small group programs as well as a take-home family activity kit that allows your family to travel the world without leaving the Fox Valley. Additionally, through virtual programming, we will talk to members of our local community about the ways they celebrate different holidays throughout the month of December.

Celebrations Around the World Programs

Musical Monoprint Cards – December 2 – 6

  • Join us for some musical print making! Learn about monoprints and create your own card using this technique while listening to festive music.

Celebration Stamping Cards – December 9 – 13

  • Make your own greeting card and experiment with different types of stamps and ink. We’ll learn about some properties of paper, create a greeting card and make a stamp to take home.

Fabric Greeting Cards – December 16 – 20

  • Learn about different textiles and make a greeting card out of fabric! We’ll be exploring collage, weaving, and layering while making a one-of-a-kind gift.

Building into the New Year – December 23 – January 3

  • After looking at different architecture from around the world, we’ll design & build our own structures and create a wishing wall with our hopes and dreams for 2021!

Learn more or register for a Celebrations Around the World program at

Celebrations Around the World Family Activity Kit

Wednesdays and Saturdays in December

  • Brighten up this winter with light-inspired projects! Design a paper luminary, conduct a light experiment using different materials, paint vibrant fireworks, and craft sparkling circle sweets.

Learn more or register for a Celebrations Around the World Kit at

Celebrations Around the World Virtual Programs












All of our virtual programs premier on our Facebook page –

Celebrations Around the World is sponsored by the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region.

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November is Healthy Kids Month at the Building for Kids! The BFK is dedicating a whole month to emphasizing the importance of kids and families prioritizing their health and wellness. We’re celebrating by providing an at-home family activity kit as well as three small group programs throughout the month that focus on physical, mental, and emotional health.

Healthy Kids Month Programs

Gratitude Murals – November 4 – 8

  • Work together to design and create a mural on canvas! We’ll learn about murals, experiment with different types of media, and create a one of a kind piece of large artwork to take home.

Mindful Mandalas – November 11 – 14

  • Explore being in the moment and the strength of focusing your mind and body as you create circular mandalas. In the end you you will have a unique piece of art and a new way to practice mindfulness.

Calming Dough – November 18 – 22

  • Discover the calming qualities of dough and lavender. We will mix our own dough, incorporating lavender buds to release their naturally calming properties.

Gratitude Murals – November 25 – 29

  • Work together to design and create a mural on canvas! We’ll learn about murals, experiment with different types of media, and create a one of a kind piece of large artwork to take home.

Learn more or register for a Healthy Kids Month program here! 

Healthy Kids Month At-Home Family Activity Kit

Wednesdays and Saturdays in November

  • Be a healthy kid with the BFK! Pretend play as a health professional, make a gratitude tree, plan a nutritious plate, and more. This at-home family activity kit contains 7 unique projects.

Learn more or register for a Healthy Kids Kit here!


Healthy Kids Month is sponsored by Children’s Wisconsin.

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This year, the Building for Kids is reimaging our annual Children’s Parade into a parade of yards! Much like the driving tours of light displays during the holidays, the BFK’s Parade of Yards will feature creatively decorated yards throughout the community. Families will come together to brainstorm their theme and will engage with each other throughout the design and decorating process. Then, they will have the chance to add their address to a map so that families can take a driving tour to view the parade of yards!

The Children’s Parade of Yards is free, but we do ask that you register by July 17 to ensure that your address is added to our parade of yards map. Families are encouraged to decorate their yards during Children’s Week, starting on July 19, and to be ready for their yard to be showcased between 4 pm – 8 pm on July 22, 2020.

To help us protect the health and safety of all involved, please remember that yards are for viewing only. Do not get out of your vehicle to take a closer look. We will also have a panel of judges visiting all of the decorated yards and giving out awards based on imagination, creativity, and confidence.

To learn more or to register, visit

Over the past decade, the Children’s Parade has evolved and grown, but our goal has remained the same: to celebrate children and inspire their creativity. The Building for Kids Children’s Parade of Yards is sponsored by ThedaCare and is a part of U.S. Venture Children’s Week.

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We miss having you and your family playing and learning inside the museum during this time of social distancing. While the building has been closed, our team remains hard at work—updating and cleaning our exhibits, installing a new mural by local artist Gretchen Wood, and developing new ways to engage and empower through our virtual programming and at-home activity kits for our members.
Your family’s health and the safety of our community are central to our decisions at the Building for Kids. In line with current public health guidance and in partnership with museums across the Fox Cities, the Building for Kids has created a phased reopening strategy.
In this reopening plan, there are three principal phases which allow for increasing levels of activity and engagement within our museum. As the situation remains fluid, there are no dates assigned to these specific phases at this time. We are carefully monitoring the situation and are hopeful that we will announce phase one in the coming weeks.
In phase one, small group programming combined with increased health and safety protocols will resume. This phase will be primarily focused on engaging our members and will not include open exhibits. Future phases will include the opening of our museum exhibits and, finally, larger group events. More information will be released regarding each phase as it occurs.

Throughout these phases, our visitors can expect the following core safety measures:

  1. Face coverings/masks will be required for all visitors and staff (3 years+) for the protection of others.
  2. Registration and limited duration visits will be used to regulate visitor numbers and support public health efforts.
  3. Distancing between household groups will be created through directed movement and some facility augmentations.
  4. Hand washing and sanitizing will be required upon arrival and recommended throughout your visit.
  5. Enhanced disinfecting processes will be implemented by staff between groups of visitors.
Throughout this phased reopening, we hope you will continue to play and learn with us through virtual and at-home activity kit programming.

Stay well,

Oliver Zornow
Executive Director
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March 13, 2020, Appleton – Out of care and concern for our community’s families, the Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will be closed until further notice as of 5:00pm Friday, March 13, 2020. After monitoring COVID-19 developments over the past few days, we feel it is our responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of the families who visit the museum, as well as the well-being of our museum staff and their families.

We will be evaluating the situation daily and look forward to being able to reopen as soon as possible. For updates please follow the Building for Kids website and Facebook page.

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At the Building for Kids, our community isn’t just the people who live and work around us. Our community is an active and influential part of who we are. It’s a part of our mission statement: to empower children, engage parents, and energize the community. We live in a diverse community, full of individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, family structures, and abilities. To honor this unique group of people, the Building for Kids hosts an annual event to celebrate the diversity in our community.

For the past five years, the BFK has organized Diversity Discovery Free Day, a free admission day where we invite community partners to share their stories and how their organizations contribute to our community. This past year, we welcomed twelve community groups who provided hands-on activities, designed to share and celebrate what makes them unique. By building partnerships with these organizations, we ensure authentic representation and that families who visit the BFK are able to see themselves in the programming. More than 6,000 visitors have participated in this tradition over the years. This event serves as a catalyst for a conversation about diversity and how it makes our community stronger.

Children who come to the event not only leave with their physical creations of beaded bracelets and painted sugar skulls, but a deeper appreciation of what makes our community unique. They also gain a better understanding of someone they know or a greater awareness for who they are and how they fit in our community.

Check out a recap of this year’s event!

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The board of directors of the Building for Kids Children’s Museum announces that Oliver Zornow will be the organization’s next executive director. In an innovative arrangement, Zornow has been serving as the director of community engagement for both the Children’s Museum and the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra since 2016 in a half-time capacity for each. His role for both organizations has been collaborative and dedicated to building partner networks to increase public access and inclusion.

The Children’s Museum’s current executive director, Jarrad Bittner, will be leaving the post he has held since 2014 to become a continuous improvement engineer for The Boldt Company.

“Jarrad has been transparent with us about considering the next step in his career,” said Cindy Flauger, board chair of the Building for Kids. “With that in mind the board has been very thoughtful in considering what a succession plan would look like.”

Leadership from both organizations worked to ensure a smooth transition. The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra has hired Cassie Schwandt to replace Zornow who will continue working with her until the end of November. In December, Bittner will transition out of his role but remain with the museum through the end of the year.

“We’re trying to set the example of what nonprofits can do to plan for leadership succession,” Bittner said. “Our primary concern is we set up each non-profit for future success.”

During Bittner’s tenure, the Building for Kids achieved significant milestones:

  • The number of individuals served annually increased from 95,000 in 2015 to over 120,000 anticipated this year and the number of members has doubled in the last five years.
  • The expansion of the Innovation Lab created a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) focused space.
  • The Museum launched the Access for All Initiative. Through events like free admission days or the access membership program, thousands of additional families come through the Museum’s doors each year
  • The team created community collaborations and programs like Creative Kids, Diversity Discovery Free Admission Day, Big Arts in the Little Apple, and the First time Parent Initiative.

“While we will miss Jarrad, we are thankful for his many contributions to support exceptional visitor experiences, museum exhibits, and growth in our team,” said Rick Stezenski, treasurer of the Building for Kids. “Along those lines, we are thrilled as a board and organization to welcome Oliver in his new role as executive director.”

“While we are sorry to see Oliver leave our organization, we are delighted to watch him grow into his new role with the Building for Kids,” said Jamie LaFreniere, executive director of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. “Oliver always brings with him a sense of collaboration, commitment, and a deep love for programs that enrich the lives of the people around him.”

Both Bittner and Zornow are graduates of Lawrence University and each has extensive experience in non-profit leadership and programming.

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Science, Technology, Engineering and Math will take center stage at the Building for Kids Children’s Museum’s (BFKCM) STEM Free Day. Presented by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, this free admission day on Saturday, October 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. will have hands-on STEM activities, visits from Professor Gizmo with amazing science, and all the excitement of the BFKCM.

“Hands-on exploration is a great way for to kids to experiment, investigate and learn problem-solving skills,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “STEM concepts are important for children of all ages, by introducing kids to STEM education at a young age through play and interactive inquiry we help develop skills and interest for life-long learning.”

STEM Free Day schedule:

9:30 am – Professor Gizmo – engaging science presentation on sound

10:30 am – STEM Storybook Stars with Pete the Cat

11:00 am – 4:00 pm – Community Partner hands-on activities

1:30 pm – STEM Storybook Stars with Pete the Cat

3:30 pm – Professor Gizmo – engaging science presentation on sound

Part of the Wisconsin Science Festival, this event includes STEM activities from community partners Appleton Public Library, Miller Electric Mfg., Plexus Corp. and more. Plus, activities throughout the BFKCM including creating color mixing spinners and fall sensory trays.

STEM Free Day is made possible through the support of the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation with additional support from Walmart.

The 2019 Wisconsin Science Festival, held October 17 – 20, will feature more than 300 events statewide and include everything from fossil exploration and robotic engineering to animal encounters and the science of Star Wars. For more information on the Festival, visit


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Looking to jam? The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will have free admission for Music Makers Free Day Saturday, August 3, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This event, created in partnership with Mile of Music, will feature music programs from the Mile of Music Education Team, plus other music and art activities.

Along with the musical programs that will be happening all day long, families can enjoy the BFKCM exhibits and create musical instruments.

Schedule of events:

9:30 a.m. – Stories that Sing with the Mile of Music Education Team

Watch, listen and interact with lively storytellers as they bring picture books to life with song, dance and a ton of fun.

10:00 a.m. 12:00 p.m. – Studio Saturday

Join us for musical art!

10:15 a.m. – Bounces, Wiggles & Tickles with the Mile of Music Education Team

Playful rhymes, songs and games will excite and engage toddlers (and their adults!)

1:30 p.m. – Forte & the Pianissimos

Hands-on Ukulele program.

2:00 p.m. – Shaker Creation in the Innovation Lab

Come design your own shaker!

3:00 p.m. – Air Guitar Jam

We are going to polish up our rock star skills!

4:00 p.m. – Hodge Podge Band

Make some noise! We will create our band out of everyday objects.


Music Makers Free Day is presented by Octoberfest, with additional support from the Appleton Noon Optimist Club, U.S. Bank, Grant Thornton, LLP and Fox Cares Foundation.


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Something big is coming to the Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM). Big League Fun, a traveling, interactive baseball-themed exhibit will be opening Saturday, September 21. Sponsored locally by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, this exhibit will include a pitcher’s mound to try and pitch into the strike zone, a batter’s box for kids to master their swing, an announcer’s booth and more. It gives kids and adults the chance to put themselves right in the game.

“We are always on the lookout for new and interesting experiences to bring to our Members and visitors,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “Big League Fun not only brings the excitement of baseball but also highlights some of the math and science behind the game, letting kids see the different kinds of skills needed in sports.”

The BFKCM plans to continue adding different elements and exhibits to the museum, with the hopes of a traveling exhibit on a yearly basis.

The national tour of Big League Fun is sponsored by The Marcus Corporation with additional support from the Brewers Community Foundation and Bud and Sue Selig.

Big League Fun! was developed by the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in cooperation with and the express permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. ©MLB trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. All rights reserved.

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