The Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) is one of the most visited museums in Eastern Long Island, and welcomes nearly 80,000 visitors annually. The Museum opened in 2005 and offers over 7,000 square feet of interactive, hands-on exhibits, classrooms, and performance space. CMEE’s mission is “to spark imagination and foster learning for children of all backgrounds and abilities and to build strong connections within the East End community by providing playful experiences.”
CMEE rushed to develop new and creative ways to serve the needs of families who consider the Museum their second home. Their incredible staff have developed several innovative approaches for presenting the Museum’s programming using digital technology. The Museum’s weekly programming serving the East End’s Latinx population has gone completely virtual. Each week, there are science classes, coding, ESL, family and literacy programs on Zoom. In addition, CMEE staff are facilitating sensory-friendly programming for families with children on the autism spectrum and with sensory processing disorders. These classes are often the only opportunity families have to communicate and interact with anyone beyond their immediate circle.
In additional to educational programming, Museum educators have employed Zoom to host weekly support groups to help families share coping strategies. Without access to other resources, CMEE’s support groups have provided a lifeline for families to cope and understand they are not alone.
While the Museum is not able to address every need during the crisis, it has focused on a primary concern: food insecurity. To help families feed their children and alleviate stress on the already inundated food pantries, CMEE is working with other nonprofits to set up a “pop-up” food pantry at the Museum for 30 to 50 families every week.