Schoolhouse Children’s Museum celebrated its 20th anniversary in October with a ribbon cutting and butterfly release. Photo provided

By Janis Fontaine

The Schoolhouse Children’s Museum, like the rest of the community, is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic. Cleaning protocols remain in place — the museum closes for cleaning from 12:30 to 1 p.m. daily — and reservations are highly recommended, but there are a lot of new activities and things to see.
“It’s an exciting time,” said Executive Director Suzanne Ross. “We’re still very sensitive to safety so we are open at reduced capacity.” Visitors without reservations could be turned away, Ross said, but “we’ll do everything we can to accommodate people.”
The pandemic did give the museum time to undergo some improvements and upgrades, with more on the way. One big addition for little hands is Toddler Cove, designed for ages 3 and younger. It’s full of “manipulatives,” Ross says, like the gear table and lots of puzzles, and everything is carpeted and soft-surfaced, thanks to a grant from the Henry Nias Foundation and Vicki Tate, one of the foundation’s leaders.
Coming soon is Mangrove Manor, which will allow kids to explore three levels of mangrove growth from the ground up, with interactive challenges on each level. At the top level, domes will re-create sounds of the beach and mangrove forest.
Mangroves are protected in Florida because they are so important. They help stabilize the coastline ecosystem and prevent erosion, filter pollutants, improve water quality, nurture our estuaries and provide a habitat for wildlife. Impact 100 provided funding for the installation.
Ross also said two popular events will return in 2022. The Princess and Superheroes Day will be back (“bigger and better than ever”) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 29 at Centennial Park & Amphitheater, 120 E. Ocean Ave.
The museum’s annual fundraiser, the Schoolhouse Bash, will be April 8 at the Arts & Cultural Center at 125 E. Ocean Ave.
The museum just celebrated its 20th anniversary.
The building can trace its roots to 1913, when it was one of the first schools in Boynton Beach.
It closed as a school in 1990 but continued to be used for community programs. In 2001, it opened as the Schoolhouse Children’s Museum & Learning Center and after 20 years it remains a rarity.
It is one of the few children’s museums in South Florida, Ross says, and the only one that provides an interactive, hands-on learning environment with the history of South Florida as its theme.
It’s designed to let kids explore dozens of jobs from store owner to physician’s assistant. But for kids, job one is play.

If You Go
The Schoolhouse Children’s Museum & Learning Center is at 129 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach.
Hours: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday. The museum is open for members only from 9 a.m. to noon the second and fourth Mondays of the month.
Admission: Free for members and babies younger than 1; $6.50 kids and adults; $5.50 ages 62 and older. Free admission for active-duty military and up to five dependents. Museums for All (EBT card required) pays $2 each for up to four family members.
Reservations: Because of the coronavirus, reservations are strongly recommended at 561-742-6780 or www.schoolhousemuseum.org. Masks are recommended.

Chess catching on in Delray
Chess guru and all-around nice guy Willie “James” McCray, the founder of James Chess Club, joined forces with the Delray Beach Police Department for a Cops and Kids tournament at the Delray Beach Community Center on Nov. 6.
“We had 21 tables and they were all full with players,” McCray said. “Participation was overwhelming.”
Next up is Chess on the Beach from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Pavilion on Atlantic Avenue at A1A. “It’s a beautiful location, and we’re expecting a full house,” McCray said.
Everyone is welcomed, whether you love chess or just want to learn the game.
James Chess Club meets from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays and noon-2 p.m. Saturdays at the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, 170 NW Fifth Ave., Delray Beach. Call or text McCray for more information at 561-352-7145.

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