Photo Essay: Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum fosters field trips for Head Start Program students

Alma College Head Start Program preschooler Eli Perrier normally pulls the covers back up over his head when he’s told to wake up for school, says his mother, Wendy Perrier - but not on the morning he got to go on a trip to the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

“The first time he came [to the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum], he was nine months old and he’s learned a lot through here so he was very excited,” Wendy said. “Every day since he found out he was coming, every morning it was, ‘Is it field trip day? Are we going to the museum?’”

Event and Marketing Director Ericka Pauly explains the importance of having "walking shoes" on to Alma College Head Start Program preschoolers as she talks about safety at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

Alma College Head Start Program parent, Wendy Perrier, helps her son Eli increase air pressure at the "Water Works, Inc." exhibit at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

The Alma College Head Start Program is one of multiple Head Start Programs through EightCap, Inc. that benefit from a grant of $5,000 to the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum from United Way.

The grant pays for a field trip visit to the museum as part of its School Readiness Initiative. This initiative aims to provide low-income families educational opportunities for their children in order to prepare them for elementary education. Parents are invited to join in on the trip as a way to become more involved in their child’s schooling.

Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum Event and Marketing Director Ericka Pauly said all EightCap Head Start Programs in Isabella and Gratiot county benefit from the grant, which comes out to around 250 students.

An Alma College Head Start Program preschooler interacts with the "Honey Money Bank" at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. The exhibit aims to help children with their math skills.

An Alma College Head Start Program preschooler stares at live honeybees behind protective glass. In warm weather, there's additional educational opportunity for kids who speak to an adult after noticing bees exit the honeycomb to fly outside.

An Alma College Head Start Program preschooler reacts to losing his ball in a waterspout at the "Water Works, Inc." exhibit. The exhibit aims to teach children about the way water moves over and around solid objects.

However, Pauly doesn’t want field trips to be the only way students can get involved. The museum is looking for the grant to be matched so it can provide memberships for all head start program families it covers.

“This year, we’ve also gotten $1,000 from Isabella Bank to go towards the School Readiness Initiative,” Pauly said. “We’re still in the process of finding an additional $4,000 to be able to offer memberships to all individuals who come.”

Alma College Head Start Program preschoolers interact with plasma balls in the "Luminary Lab" at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum. The Luminary Lab helps introduce children to the qualities of light.

An Alma College Head Start Program preschooler reacts to a ball being launched into the air at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

The matching of the grant would allow parents like Wendy Perrier and fellow Alma College Head Start Program parent Eric McGillis visit the museum at no cost and at their own discretion. Specifically, it would allow two named adults and all children within a household free admission to the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum for a year and would also include participation in special events.

“Ace thoroughly enjoys the museum, so for me, if he enjoys it I enjoy it,” McGillis said. “I think that the more the kids get to do, the better they become.”

Parents who attended the field trip joined in sorting “honeycomb” at the Beemazium, helped make paper rockets at the Exploratorium, and played the light-up pipe organ in the Luminary Lab.

Alma College Head Start Program parent, Wendy Perrier, takes a photo of her son, Eli, making a paper rocket at the "Exploratorium" at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

An Alma College Head Start Program preschooler interacts with an oversized Lite-Brite at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

Alma College Head Start Program preschoolers run around the "Beemazium" with the supervision of two parent volunteers at the Mount Pleasant Discovery Museum.

Education Coordinator for zero to five services in Gratiot county Kellei McLaughlin participated in supervising the trip and also said the museum benefits both students and parents.

“Seeing some of the kiddos who aren’t usually independent or seeking to do things on their own have come here and were able to do that,” McLaughlin said. “What I’ve heard from parents and seen in the past is it has gotten them more involved in the classroom and it gives them better insight to where their children are developmentally. It gives them things to work on and they enjoy coming here and feeling like part of the community.”

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