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December 22, 2015

SVSU faculty, students contribute to new environment coming to Mid-Michigan Children's Museum

Children who visit the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum in Saginaw in the new year will benefit from a new Play and Learn environment, thanks to the contributions of occupational therapy students and faculty at Saginaw Valley State University.

The museum worked with SVSU’s occupational therapy department in a community engagement learning exercise to identify areas for improvement, particularly so children with disabilities can play more independently in the Museum.

Julie Jacob, SVSU field work coordinator, said occupational therapy students gained valuable first-hand experience through their involvement in the project.

“Some of the students have never worked with children before, so for some of them it might be their first exposure,” she said. “The biggest thing is getting the students exposed to this environment, and looking at it through a different lens of how to get children engaged in play, and how to facilitate that.”

The museum received a $13,000 grant from The Bay Area Community Foundation, Nathalie Awrey Memorial Fund, for an adaptive play project, addressing the various ways Jacob and the SVSU students suggested the museum could be improved. Funds will be used to further develop the museum’s galleries and facility so children with disabilities can play more independently in the museum, beginning in January 2016.

“The SVSU student interns are a joy to work with and bring a unique insight to the gallery Play and Learn experience for children and adults who visit the museum,” said Angela Barris, president and CEO of the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum.

The museum is making adaptations specifically targeting children with sensory-integrative disorders, physical disabilities, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders, but ultimately, all children will benefit. Devices such as noise-cancelling headphones, manual communication boards, semicircular desks and weighted vests; plus motion-activated faucets and an automatic door opener will be added. More complex adaptive items such as iPads with touch screen communication apps and a new Tranquil Gallery will provide respite for children who need a softer, reduced sensory experience.

In 2015, SVSU received the Community Engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a distinction achieved by only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities. By their senior year, 84 percent of students have engaged with community employers and agencies in internships, field placements or some other component of their academic preparation. National research has shown that students who are engaged in the community and on campus are more likely to be successful academically, and to have the critical thinking, problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, and adaptability desired by employers.

For more information on the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum, visit