Here’s where you and the kids can get out of the rain for some play-based learning

The Family Interactive Gallery in the Lightcatcher building of the Whatcom Museum is a hands-on space where children explore and learn about art, nature and history.
The Family Interactive Gallery in the Lightcatcher building of the Whatcom Museum is a hands-on space where children explore and learn about art, nature and history. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

As the winter break – and the winter weather – approaches parents are often looking for something fun to do with the family. The Whatcom Museum’s Family Interactive Gallery, known as FIG, is a great place for kids to play, and to learn while they are playing, too.

The FIG is an interactive, hands-on museum space designed for children of all ages and their families. By offering self-directed exploration, play and learning together, the FIG provides educational opportunities in many critical areas, including science, technology, art, innovation, problem-solving, early childhood literacy and social and cross-cultural experiences.

While at the FIG, families can interact with an assortment of activity stations that range from planting fruits and vegetables to learning how magnets work to performing a play. The FIG focuses on mission-based themes, such as Northwest natural history, art and local history.

“The fundamentals that set museum education apart from classroom teaching are as multifaceted as our methodologies,” said Susanna Brooks, director of learning innovation. “Our classroom is the museum and our teaching materials are sourced from our exhibitions and collections, objects of artistic, cultural, historic and scientific importance to the communities we serve.”

The FIG also hosts classes that are included with admission, such as Little Sprouts Learning. The Little Sprouts program is a pre-scholastic, learn-through-play activity for children ages 18 months to six years that features hands-on experiments and imaginative make-and-take-home projects.

The FIG’s STEAM-based activities, which focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math concepts, provides visitors of all ages with opportunities to play, experiment and innovate through hands-on experiments that museum educators prepare.

The FIG offers many other educational activities for young children and their caregivers and is a fun place to visit on a blustery or rainy day. To learn more about the FIG, visit: https://whatcommuseum.org/family-interactive-gallery/.

Colton Redtfeldt is Whatcom Museum’s marketing assistant.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit Whatcom Museum is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the city of Bellingham. The Old City Hall building at 121 Prospect St. and the Lightcatcher Building at 250 Flora St. are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). Memberships start at $50 and include free museum admission.

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.