The awareness for a Children’s Museum in Laredo began in the 1980s as the late Cecilia Martinez Claflin, curator for the Nuevo Santander Museum, saw the need for a place where children learn with manipulatives. She researched the concept and together with a group of educators and concerned citizens established goals that would determine the direction and possibility of such a museum. The museum was incorporated on November 26, 1990. The Laredo Children’s Museum officially opened its doors on September 11, 1991. Twenty-six years later, now located at Mall Del Norte, the Imaginarium of South Texas, continues to “Grow Together” with educators, citizens, and the community.
The Imaginarium of South Texas is Laredo’s only children’s museum and informal science education center that has grown its programming to include a wider audience and continues to provide exhibits and curricula that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM). In the eleven years since relocating to Mall Del Norte in February of 2007, the Imaginarium of South Texas has welcomed over 500,000 visitors to its facility.
“At the heart of our operations is a simple goal: to provide opportunities for children and families to engage in the creative process when learning about the world around them,” explained Executive Director of Imaginarium South Texas, Sandra Cavazos Ayala. The Imaginarium of South Texas strongly believes in providing a bi-cultural and creative learning experience to local and out-of- town families largely through hands-on exhibits that enrich individual sense of inquiry and that inspire youth with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM).
“We believe that children learn best by doing,” explained Mrs. Cavazos Ayala. The Imaginarium of South Texas team is dedicated to making evident the way children think, imagine, design, invent, and create when given intelligent materials. All of the exhibits at the Imaginarium of South Texas include top-notch educational marketing and installation materials, approachable support from qualified staff, and graphics presented in English and Spanish. Some of the exhibits the museum offers include an active T-rex, a stimulating toddler area, H-E-B Kid’s Market, and a grand Kid’s Library.
United Way generously supports the Imaginarium of South Texas by providing funds for outreach programs. This outreach program aims to engage and excite children and families with hands-on fun using real and varied materials.
In 2017, the staff of The Imaginarium of South Texas participated and traveled to numerous community events in Laredo and Webb County. They Provided STEAM opportunities for hundreds of children and families at places such as Mall Del Norte during all their seasonal activities, Spring Mercadito Fest, Annual Family Summer Fest, and Laredo Heat Day to name a few.
The Imaginarium of South Texas welcomes visitors who come from near and far. The museum impacts thousands of children, families, and schools with each growing year. In 2016, they welcomed 60,000 visitors, 25 outreaches (impacted 12,000 children and adults), 400 volunteers, 60 school groups, and 15 educational camps. At the Imaginarium of South Texas, the team encourages children to take lead in their own learning. The exhibits and programming extend opportunities for self-expression, choice, and creative control during a museum visit.