BFK News

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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 wiscifest.org.


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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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The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will be host two special guests June 25 – 30 for Be a Caring Neighbor Week, Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittykat. The week will be filled with different programs and events around kindness, helping and neighborhoods.

“In the spirit of Mister Rogers and Daniel Tiger, we are creating an event that celebrates learning, compassion and community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “It is through acceptance and wonder that we encourage kids to be caring and welcoming individuals.”

The week will include visits from different neighbors who will talk about what they do in the neighborhood, including a police officer, dentist, firefighters, and skaters from the Fox Cities Roller Derby League. A PJ Party with Daniel & Katerina will be On Thursday, June 27 from 5-8 p.m. with story times, hands-on activities and trolley rides. Plus, story times all week long at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. For a complete list of programs, click here.

Be a Caring Neighbor Week was made possible by the support of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., and First Impression Impressions Pediatric Dentistry. All programs are included in BFKCM Membership and daily admission.

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Financial Literacy Free Day at the Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will teach families how to save and spend wisely, and have fun doing it! This free admission day on Sunday, March 31, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. is sponsored by Money Smart Week Fox Cities and will offer math and financial programming, as well as the chance to explore the BFKCM.

“Through different games, we use real-life examples to teach math and finances in a fun and interactive way,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Besides spending and saving, we also learn about sharing. We talk about what the kids would like to share with others, teaching them about generosity and empathy.”

When kids enter the BFKCM, they will receive a check they can cash for BFK bucks. Throughout the BFKCM there will be different stations where they will learn about spending, saving and sharing. Each station will teach different elements of financial literacy. Kids can play games for the cost of their water bill which teaches about budging skills and investment games to learn about saving. They will get the opportunity to purchase healthy snacks and other items, do fun activities and learn about sharing with others in our community.

Plus, The Big Read story time at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. with the story “Count on Pablo” by Barbara deRubertis. Kids at story time will receive a copy of the book.


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Come learn what makes our community unique at the Building for Kids Children’s Museum’s (BFKCM) 4thannual Diversity Discovery Free Day. On Sunday, February 10 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. this free admission day will have local non-profits and community groups with hands-on activities for families to learn, discover and celebrate diversity.

“This event is truly a community effort,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “There is tremendous importance in telling our stories and understanding our neighbors better. Through sharing and learning about what makes us unique, we create a much stronger community.”

Joining the BFKCM are the Appleton Public Library with Hispanic and Hmong games, WIT4Girls helping take apart and reassemble computers, SOAR Fox Cities with a sensory activity that demonstrates what it is like to be visually impaired and more.

New this year will be the Woodland Boys & Girls Club of Menominee with Pow Wow Dancers, the Aztec Dance Group Danza Azteca Tonantzin and Indian dance lessons with IndUS.

Diversity Discovery Free Day is presented by Huggies® and Pull-Ups® with additional support by Bemis Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region.

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