O’Brien volunteers at Explore More Children’s Museum

The local Explore More Children’s Museum is not only a place for kids to play and learn, but also a place for community members to volunteer. Junior Jack O’Brien’s mother had been involved with the creation of the museum years ago, so she encouraged him to volunteer in his free time this past summer. Operations Manager and Volunteer Coordinator of the Children’s Museum, Caroline Shull, was the one who managed Jack’s volunteering, along with the service of the other helpers.

“Hands-on volunteers interact with children by showing them how to properly and safely use the exhibits. They supervise and maintain exhibits by tidying exhibit areas and restocking supplies, and they prepare materials for special events and programs,” Shull said.

If a certain area is of interest to the volunteer, they can be put to use in that specific place.

“Volunteers who get the most out of their experience at Explore More enjoy working with children and are flexible and willing to do whatever project may come up on a given day,” Shull said. “If a volunteer shares that they have a special interest or skill, we can plug them into special events and programs that would be a good fit. For example, we’ve had students from the HHS Fine Arts Academy plan and implement a themed event at the museum where they led art activities, and groups have put on performances for the kids.”

For O’Brien though, his routine usually consisted of picking up after the children.

“Most days I would come in and I would get a little tag, and then I would just kind of wander around, just kind of pace back and forth. Most of the time it was just cleaning up stuff that the kids would leave out. Occasionally a kid would ask me for help,” O’Brien said.

His two favorite memories involve interacting with the kids, something that didn’t happen often due to the usual presence of parents.

“I remember…a kid came up to me and asked me for help reading a thing for him, which was really cool,” O’Brien said. “Another time, a kid just came up to me and wanted to play with me, and we played for the whole hour I was there.”

O’Brien is very accustomed to children.

“I have a little brother who is almost six now and that kind of sparked [my] interest in kids… He goes there a lot,” O’Brien said. “I would go there for an hour, and then my mom would bring him and I would play with him for the second hour sometimes.”

O’Brien enjoyed the experience, which has guided him into pursuing a career path in a similar aea.

“It made me want to do more with kids, so in the future I can have a job or a position where I can interact with kids more. Doing more of these things [will allow me to] have a more impactful job,” O’Brien said.

The museum offered O’Brien a volunteer slot of two hours for two days a week, and the times were flexible. Two volunteers are on at the same time of day, and the day is usually broken up into three shifts. Volunteers, a mixing pot of high school and college students, community volunteers, board members and special event volunteers, typically serve for a semester or the summer, but some even stay for years.

“If someone just enjoys being around kids, it’s a good first step [into volunteering],” O’Brien said. He plans to serve there next year as well.

“Volunteers get a real sense of satisfaction from working with children and helping the community and it’s a lot of fun,” Shull said. “It also is a great opportunity to get community service hours for different classes or service organizations.”

Some of those who serve would visit the museum as kids and they now enjoy returning to it at an older age to help out.

“Quite a few of our high school student volunteers grew up coming to play at the museum with their families, so it’s fun for them to come and help children have a great experience in a place that they really enjoyed and are now able to give back,” Shull said.

If you are interested in serving at the Explore More Museum, you can fill out a volunteer application at http://www.iexploremore.com/volunteer/

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