There was only one spot left so you know Marsha Wainio jumped on it: the last opportunity to incorporate an ag-education component into Iron Mountain’s new children’s museum, the Imagination Factory. One of its several themed areas is aptly named the Environment Room.
“That’s where you’ll find our ag-education exhibit,” Wainio said about the collection of farm-friendly materials that came together in the months following her early tour of the fledgling facility.
“Looking around I wasn’t seeing anything agricultural,” she said. “The administrator showed me a 10x10 space and said it was the last one available.
“I said, ‘We’ll take it!’”
A lifelong educator herself, Wainio worked alongside Iron Range Farm Bureau Promotion & Education Chair Faith Kuzak to outfit the space with an inventory of ag-education resources aimed at the museum’s target audience: toddlers through eight-year-olds.
“It wasn’t hard to convince the Iron Range board we should do it,” Wainio said. “Faith was totally on board.”
Farm toys were donated by Riesterer & Schnell, a Wisconsin-based John Deere dealer generously involved across the western U.P. Other donations included animal hand puppets, pig and cow headbands and several primary-age accurate-ag books ordered through Michigan Ag in the Classroom.
Iron Range Young Farmer Donovon Kuzak (Faith’s son) built a book barn for the exhibit with help from Luke Jones, the shop teacher at Forest Park High School in Crystal Falls.
Other donors included Incredible Bank, Farm Bureau Insurance Managing Partner Joe Blanchard Jr., and Iron Range Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors.
“We’ve been adding and adding things from January until just recently,” when members met at the facility to survey the results of their efforts, Wainio said. “Our Farm Bureau does a member meet-n-greet event every spring or early summer. Normally we’d have to rent a space for it but this year we decided to have it at the museum instead.”
Iron Range Farm Bureau members attending the event gave the exhibit a resounding thumbs-up — as did their kids, who enjoyed an evening of exclusive access.
In addition to the standing interactive exhibit, Wainio is facilitating interactive ag-learning sessions for young patrons twice annually, including hands-on ag activities and reading an ag-accurate book.
“In May I read AFBF’s Book of the Year, How to Grow a Monster, and we planted bean plants,” she said. “In October we’ll probably do pumpkins.”
Repurposing unused school space, the Imagination Factory opened last December as a community resource combining interactive educational resources for all ages, but especially young children. Designed as a means of bringing together parents and children for fun, educational activities, the institution was a project of the Great Start Collaborative.