Children's museum in Cherry Hill opens a hospital-themed exhibit

Gary Stahl of Cooper talks to 4-year-old Gabrielle Butler of Lower Mayfair Preschool during her visit to the Garden State Discovery Museum's new hospital-themed exhibit. The exhibit opened Thursday.
Gary Stahl of Cooper talks to 4-year-old Gabrielle Butler of Lower Mayfair Preschool during her visit to the Garden State Discovery Museum's new hospital-themed exhibit. The exhibit opened Thursday. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 15, 2014

Children, one of them draped with a real stethoscope, moved around pieces of a puzzle depicting a full-body X-ray on a backlit table. A friendly looking patient - a doll - lay nearby. A bright-red model ambulance and a model helicopter stood at the ready.

And on a wall was a map of the skeletal system.

That was the scene at the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill on Friday morning as it opened an exhibit intended to take the dread out of children's visiting a hospital or emergency room.

The exhibit, replacing one focused on nutrition and well-being, continues the museum's eight-year partnership with Cooper University Hospital. It was opened by cutting pink hospital gauze - a substitute for the traditional ribbon.

"The experience is to discover things on their own and experience the real world ... at their own pace," said Karyn McGrogan, a preschool teacher at Lower Mayfair Preschool in Philadelphia, whose students were visiting the museum.

"My first impression was that it was great. The kids and the parents were having a good time," said Gary Stahl, vice president of pediatrics at Cooper. "The more that kids are exposed to different things, play becomes, for some kids, careers."

The museum has been constructing the exhibit for about two months and planning it for four. Everything in the exhibit, according to Mark Orleans, exhibit manager at the museum, is originated and constructed in-house.

"Everything we build, we have to fit through a single doorway," Orleans said, motioning to the red door that opens into the museum's workshop.

The workshop is packed with saws and tools, as well as oddities on the walls and floors - such as a baby doll perched above the door with a spear, breakfast-food cutouts stuck to the wall, and a palm tree cutout leaning against shelving.

"This is our art studio, I would say," Orleans said.

And everything created there, he said, is designed in the hope that children will enjoy it.

On Friday, the children seemed to be enjoying the variety of exhibits already on display in the museum.

"It was fun. The dinosaur part was fun," said 5-year-old Andrew Hall, who had come with his mother and other children from the Lower Mayfair school.

Around Memorial Day next year, the museum plans to open a branch in Atlantic City. The theme of that museum will be 1920s Atlantic City, and it will include displays related to the Miss America Pageant, bootleggers, and other local history.


cmindock@philly.com

856-779-3237

@clarkmindock

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