BFK News

Starting this fall, The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will expand its SPARK! Program into a monthly program and it will include more collaboration with other organizations as well as multi-generational programs. SPARK!, a program for caregivers and loved ones living with memory loss, had its pilot program at the BFKCM in early 2015. The first of the new series, on October 15 at 10 a.m., will feature music education students from Lawrence University bringing instruments to try and musicians from the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra engaging participants through music.

Fall SPARK! Programs at the BFKCM:

  • Making Music, Saturday, October 15 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. This program encourages multi-generational participation. Participants can feel free to bring kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
  • Coloring with Light, Monday, November 21 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Holiday Travel, Monday, December 19 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Each program engages participants in interactive exhibit and hands-on experiences. They learn about different art forms and music, and get a chance to create. Past programs have included string painting, storytelling through collage and meditative rock gardens.

“Our mission focuses not only on children, but also on families and community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “The SPARK! Program gives us the opportunity to provide engaging programs for members of the community we might otherwise not see at the Museum. And it gives them the chance to create and connect on many different levels.”

The art programs are led by a professional artist with a Master of Fine Arts. All programs are conducted by specially trained staff, with trainings in engagement strategies, disability accommodation, medical background on Alzheimer’s and related dementia, implications of the diseases on family and social life and more.

SPARK! programs are at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum and are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of the Mielke Family Foundation, Oak Park Place – Menasha and the Outagamie County Chapter of Thrivent Financial. To register for a program, call the BFKCM at 920-734-3226 ext. 10.

Looking to jam? The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will have free admission for Music Makers Free Day Saturday, August 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Presented by Thrivent Mutual Funds with support from WBAY, this event will feature music from Randy Peterson, programs from the Mile of Music educators, plus other music and science activities!

Along with the musical activities that will be happening all day long, families can enjoy the BFKCM exhibits, learn about the science of sound and create art to music in the da Vinci Studio.

“We recognize the importance of music to a child’s development,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Music and music classes help with intellectual, social, emotional, motor and language development. Plus it can ignite a lifelong passion for creativity.”

Schedule of events:

9:30 a.m. – Mini Mile of Music

Age: 0-3 years

Songs, dancing, and music games for little ones.

10:00 a.m. – Suzuki Baby Music Class

Age: 0-3 years

Rhythm, rhyme and familiar tunes in an environment designed specifically for babies and toddlers. The Suzuki Method provides the littlest children with confidence, determination and a lasting enjoyment of music. Bring your babies and toddlers for a shortened Suzuki Baby Music Class and be impressed by your child’s concentration and create treasured memories to share.

10:30 a.m. – Singing Picture Books!

Age: 4-7

Watch, listen and interact with lively storytellers as they bring picture books to life with song, dance and a ton of fun.

11:30 a.m. – Randy Peterson

All ages

Entertainer, educator and storyteller, Randy finds song material by looking at the world through children’s eyes. From marveling at the worlds of science and nature, to the simple joy of making a new friend, he brings these gems to life in a most entertaining style.

1:00 p.m. – Randy Peterson

2:30 p.m. – Parachutes and Boomwhackers!

Age: 4-7

Come sing, move, Boomwhack and run in and out of parachutes in the most colorful music making session for young ones at Mile of Music.


Love Chocolate? This run is for you! The Chocoholic Frolic 5K/10K/Kids Run is coming to Fox Cities Stadium – Neuroscience Group Field on Sunday, July 31. This year’s Chocoholic Frolic charity partner is The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM). Register online at and use code BUILD4KIDS to get $5 off registration and $5 donated to the BFKCM.

The Chocoholic Frolic is for people of all ages and experience levels, with the 5K and 10K races being chip timed for competitive runners as well as a relaxed atmosphere for non-competitive walkers and runners. The top three winners in each race will win chocolate awards, along with the first-place female and male finishers in seven age categories.

Whether you run, jog, walk or skip through the course, you can take advantage of the chocolate stops along the race route, courtesy of Vande Walle’s Candies. Additionally, everyone at the finish line will be greeted with a mini fondue of melted chocolate with treats for dipping and plenty of other “refuelments.” Runners also receive a technical quarter-zip jacket, race tote and Chocoholic Frolic Finisher Bar. Children in the kids run receive a race shirt, cinch sac and finisher cookie.

For people who want to get in on the fun but don’t feel like running, the BFKCM is looking for volunteers to help. Visit for more information and to sign up.

The Chocoholic Frolic is an event of Final Stretch, Inc who is dedicated to personal wellness through physical activity and competition for all fitness levels and ages. Their mission is to provide a quality, fun, safe, friendly and competitive platforms to challenge and test personal training regimens.

What’s Happening this Summer at the BFK

Now that school is out for the year and we’ve slowed down with field trip groups, we’re ready for summer with plenty of family programs and events. Check the list below and be sure to add your favorites to your summer calendar!

Summer programs:

Puddle Jumpers – Tuesdays & Thursdays at 9:30 am
This program is perfect for infants, toddlers, and their caregivers featuring music, movement, fine art and storytelling. Join us for structured activity with mingle time afterward!

Shake, Rattle, Roll – Wednesdays at 2:30 pm
Featuring a different theme each week, this program uses movement, stories and art to create an interactive program for toddlers, preschoolers and their caregivers.

Busy Bees – Fridays at 9:30 am
Busy Bees is perfect for busy toddlers! This program features stories and hands-on activities tied to a monthly theme (be careful – some classes might be messy!)

Storybook Stars

Join us for story time, meet the star of the book and have your family’s photo taken with the character!

  • Olivia the Piglet: July 20 & 22 (10:30 am & 1:30 pm), July 23 (1:30 pm)
  • Elephant & Piggie: August 17 & 19 (10:30 am & 1:30 pm), August 20 (1:30 pm)
  • Lilly the Mouse: September 21, 23 (10:30 am & 1:30 pm, September 24 (1:30 pm)

Special events:

8th Annual Children’s Parade presented by ThedaCare– Wednesday, July 27 (6 pm)
Join us for this non-motorized kids’ parade down College Avenue as part of Children’s Week (click here for a full list of Children’s Week events). Register your family to participate or find a spot along the parade route to see the creative entries. Follow the route to City Park for food, music and family entertainment following the parade! Wrap up the evening in Houdini Plaza at dusk for “Finding Nemo.” Click here for more information or to register.

Music Makers Free Day: An Event of Mile of Music – Saturday, August 6 (9 am – 5 pm)
Visit us for family-friendly music and music education events all day long! Presented by Thrivent Mutual Funds; supported by WBAY

Golf Fore Children- Tuesday, August 16 – Royal St. Patrick’s, Wrightstown, WI
Golf for a great cause! This golf outing raises funds for The Building for Kids, WisconSibs and Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis children’s charities. Click here for more information about golfing or sponsoring this fun event!


For a full list of programs and events, check out our event calendar!

Updates Coming This Fall

This September 6 -16 we will be closed for our annual maintenance. These weeks will be packed with cleaning, painting and repairing. Along with our usual maintenance schedule, we will be getting some exciting updates!


Gulfstream Corporation will be adding flight simulators to our Gulfstream aircraft. Kids (and adults!) will be able to practice their flying skills.

Our fire truck will be getting a new look. Pierce Manufacturing is currently getting a new fire truck cab prepped for the Museum. It will be larger and taller than our current cab, plus some other features including a larger, more accessible space by the steering wheel.

The third big renovation for September is the Water Gallery. Thrivent Mutual Funds is generously supporting this renovation complete with a new large water table. The new table will have fountains, a fog mushroom, LEGO building area and more.

We can’t wait for these updates to be finished so we can share them with you. As with anything, the schedule might change, but right now we are on track for these to be finished for our fall re-opening!

Chocoholic Frolic

Who doesn’t like chocolate? The Chocoholic Frolic is Sunday, July 31 at Neuroscience Group Field. By signing up with our code (BUILD4KIDS) you will get $5 off and $5 will be donated to The Building for Kids! Did we mention the pull over jacket, tote bag and finisher chocolate bar?

Volunteer Opportunities

We are always looking for dedicated, creative, fun volunteers to help with various activities at the Museum. Volunteers regularly help in the da Vinci Studio, at special events and Storybook Stars. This summer we have a couple fun opportunities for you to support the Museum!

8th Annual Children’s Parade is Wednesday, July 27 and we are looking for volunteers to help with check-in, set up, traffic control, clean up and more. Various times from 3 pm to 9 pm. Click here to volunteer.

Chocoholic Frolic is Saturday, July 30 & Sunday, July 31. We are looking for volunteers to help with packet pick-up on Saturday and various jobs on Sunday including registration, crowd control and assistance on the course. Click here to volunteer.

Music Makers Free Day is Saturday, August 6. Volunteers will be helping with set-up, working different stations, helping with art projects and more. Various times from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm.

Our annual cleaning and maintenance is September 6 – 16. If you are good with a paint brush this is the volunteer opportunity for you! We will need volunteers to help with painting, cleaning and other upkeep. Various times from 9 am – 5 pm daily.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities, or helping out at the Museum, please contact us!

Summer Field Trips

Our busy field trip season is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your day care or group come to the BFK on a field trip! We offer field trips and Discovery Classes all summer long.

The new field trip guide will be available in August in time for the 2016-17 school year. We are hard at work on new Discovery Classes and field trip opportunities.

And you can always visit the Field Trip Predictor to see how many students will be in the Museum to help you plan your visit.

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM), in partnership with Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, will celebrate what makes us unique at Diversity Discovery Free Day on Saturday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Presented by the J.J. Keller Foundation and the Mielke Family Foundation with support from Bemis Company and the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, this free admission day will feature all the fun of the Museum plus local non-profits and community groups with hands-on activities for families to learn, discover and celebrate diversity.

Families can learn about Sikh traditions and dress a paper doll in Sikh attire with the Sikh Temple of Fox Valley, take pictures in a photo booth from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, learn about folk tales with African Heritage Incorporated, help create a community art piece for the BFKCM and more. The Mielke Family Theater will host dance and musical performances from cultures from all over the world.

More than a dozen organizations are involved, including American Indian Services of the Fox Valley, Appleton Public Library, Fit Oshkosh, Girls Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, IndUS of Fox Valley, SOAR Fox Cities, United Hmong American Association, WisconSibs, World Relief Fox Valley and student organizations from Lawrence University and University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.

“The Building for Kids is an inclusive place for all families in the community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Together with our collaborative partners we have created an engaging and educational event to celebrate our diverse community.”

“We believe that diversity is a key asset to our community’s future. It is very important for children and families to be informed about diverse cultures, identities, abilities and religions, while at the same time being able to be proud of their own,” said Carolyn Desrosiers, co-chair of Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities.

Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities is a non-profit that believes every person is worthy of dignity and respect. Their mission is served through education, outreach, advocacy and public events.

The BFKCM has been empowering children, engaging parents and energizing the community since 1992. For more information about the BFKCM, including its programs and events, visit

Come be a kid at Adult Night at the Museum on Thursday, May 12, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM). Sponsored by Speedy Clean Drain & Sewer and supported by Faith Technologies, this fundraiser is your chance to climb through a 10-foot human heart, operate a crane, paint in the da Vinci Studio and not worry about letting your kids have a turn.

Along with kid-like fun, the Museum will have ballroom dance classes by Absolute Danz, live music by Tommy Winch and Auralai, mixology classes by Ambassador, art classes by The Carrot Project Art Studio, light hors d’oeuvres from High Cliff Restaurant and samples from The Shinery.

“This is a great chance to get the community involved on a whole new level,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM and an Appleton Noon Optimist Club member. “Not only in raising funds to help with new programming and maintaining exhibits, but also to invite people to see the Museum in a different light.”

All proceeds benefit The Building for Kids Children’s Museum and Appleton Noon Optimist Club.

Space is limited; tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased at



Come learn how to save and spend wisely, and have fun doing it, at Financial Literacy Free Day at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) on Sunday, April 10 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sponsored by Thrivent Financial of Outagamie County Chapter, Museum admission will be free, with a suggested donation of a non-perishable food item for the St. Joseph Food Program.

As kids play throughout the BFKCM, they will learn about spending, sharing and saving by using Museum money. They will discover the importance of budgeting by investing their pretend money, purchasing healthy snacks and takeaway items, doing fun activities and learning about sharing with others in our community through local non-profits such as the St. Joseph Food Program, Caneille Regional Development Fund and Habitat for Humanity.

“As Thrivent members, we are committed to helping people in our community be wise with money and live generous lives,” said Oliver Zornow, President of the Thrivent Financial of Outagamie County Chapter. “It’s never too early for kids to establish healthy financial habits.”

“It is important to us to create programming that is engaging and educational,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “With the help of Thrivent Financial, families can enjoy the Museum while learning about money matters and the importance of giving back to the community.”

Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization that helps Christians be wise with money and live generously. They offer a broad range of products and services – including life insurance, annuities and mutual funds – along with guidance from financial representatives nationwide. For more than a century they’ve helped their more than 2.3 million member-owners make wise money choices that reflect their values. And they provide opportunities for them to be even more generous where they live, work and worship.

The BFKCM has been empowering children, engaging parents and energizing the community since 1992. For more information about the BFKCM, including its programs and events, visit

Dear Friends,


We are truly fortunate to be part of a community that believes in our children, and that play, discovery and art are fundamental in their development. As you read this report, you will see that these beliefs are ever present at the core of The Building for Kids Children’s Museum. This past year has been full of achievements. We developed new, engaging programming, worked with community partners to refresh exhibits, re-branded ourselves with an updated look, and collaborated with multiple local organizations to better serve the needs of our community.

These exciting updates are only possible because of our donors, members and visitors like you. Thank you for supporting our mission of empowering children, engaging parents and energizing our community.

Whether it’s through our educational programming, art education in the da Vinci art studio, field trips, special exhibits, or just a day of fun, we know you and your family will find The Building for Kids a special experience. We hope many of you will find a time (or several!) to visit us this next year to see what we have to offer. As we enter our 25th anniversary year, we can’t wait to show you what 2016 has in store for our community!


Jarrad Bittner signatureSherry Coley signatureAmy Henselin




Jarrad Bittner                      Sherry Coley                                       Amy Henselin

Executive Director              Chair – Board of Directors                Immediate Past Chair – Board of Directors

Read our complete 2015 Community Report.


The newly renovated ThedaCare Physicians Doll Hospital at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will be ready for little doctors and nurses on Wednesday, February 24. The exhibit is designed like an exam room at a pediatrician’s office and includes scales, stethoscopes and scrubs for kids to use as they give dolls check-ups.

As kids pretend to be medical staff they will learn healthy habits like the importance of washing hands, eating nutritious meals and staying active.

“Pretend play encourages problem solving, and if children are playing with others, it builds social and emotional skills,” said Dr. Kenneth Branstetter, pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Neenah. “Their language grows because a doctor or nurse speaks differently than a teacher or storekeeper. Kids can be anything they want just by pretending.”

“Play is important for kids’ cognitive development,” said Michael Wartgow, Chief Operating Officer at the BFKCM. “Our exhibits are created to have educational components, as well as encourage kids to use their imaginations. When kids enter the world of medical professionals in the ThedaCare Physicians Doll Hospital, they are also learning about different aspects of math and science.”

The renovation of the Doll Hospital was generously sponsored by ThedaCare, whose mission is to improve the health of the communities they serve.

The BFKCM has been empowering children, engaging parents and energizing the community since 1992. For more information about the BFKCM, including its programs and events, visit

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