It was when she saw a 2-year-old boy who could barely reach the top of the digital DJ tables with his hands “literally jumping up and down with excitement,” that the joy of reopening hit Robin Gose.
As president and CEO of MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, at 125 State St. in Santa Barbara, Ms. Gose said that Thursday — the first day back open for the museum after the pandemic — was “terrific.”
“It’s been a hard year to not have revenue from the ticket sales, so this is a shot in the arm, not only to see people using the space as it was intended to be used, but also to help us financially,” she told the News-Press. “We certainly face some financial challenges, but this is part of the rebuilding.”
MOXI briefly reopened last November but was forced to close when the regional stay-at-home order went into effect in December 2020. After the county entered the orange tier last month, museums were permitted to reopen at 50% capacity indoors. Visitors can expect the standard COVID-19 protocols at MOXI, such as required face masks, one-way arrows on the ground, turn taking and constant sanitation. However, nearly all the exhibits at MOXI are open. The exhibits that remain closed include those with too many small parts to clean, with forced air and requiring users to put their face up against something.
“For the most part, the experience is pretty similar,” Ms. Gose said. “The approach that we’re taking to reopening is to reassess. We’re following the CDC and the state guidelines, and as those evolve and change, we are keeping abreast of those; we are getting visitor feedback; and we’ll make adjustments as necessary, which also matches our whole educational philosophy too. We test and we iterate and we make improvements, so we’ll be doing that along the way.”
The museum is only open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday as of now, but staff hopes to resume normal, seven-day operations sometime this summer, COVID permitting.
“MOXI is a familiar space, which after a year of such change in kids’ lives and change that was so wildly out of their control, to now come back to a familiar, safe, beloved space really does a lot, just on a social and emotional level,” Ms. Gose said. “Now, add in the fact that they can do hands-on exploration with science, technology, engineering, art and math that they may not have been able to do in those remote Zoom learning environments, then all of the sudden, it reignites that love for learning.
“It reminds them that there is more to learn than just staring at a computer screen, and it gets them back to doing what kids do best, which is exploring where their own curiosity leads them, discovering something new and being creative.”
On Friday, there were several kids back to doing what they do best at MOXI, whether it was their first visit or 20th visit, including Hussan Hammou’s 3-year-old daughter.
“We just wanted to take a little mini vacation to take a break,” Mr. Hammou, a Pasadena resident, told the News-Press. “This is my daughter’s first time, and so far, she’s so into it. I guess it’s the most interaction (she’s had). Most of the stuff (she does) is with adults, so this is much fun for her.”
Bonnie Cox brought her three children to Moxi Friday morning, and told the News-Press that she used to be a member until the pandemic hit, so she actually paid for her tickets that day.
“But I told them about last year and they refunded my money back and extended my membership until December this year,” Ms. Cox said. “That was really nice of them.”
According to Ms. Cox, her three children — Charlotte, 10, Wesley, 6 and Aaron, 4 — have many different interests. She said Aaron is her engineer, Wesley is her friendly perfectionist and Charlotte is her artist.
“Here, each of them have something to look forward to, and they can bond with each other and share what they’re passionate about and learn from each other,” she said. “They each want to do their different things at the same time, so here, I can be stationary or go from one to the other without one being frustrated because somebody’s doing something different. That’s really hard to do.”
The Cox family visited MOXI all the way from Camarillo, but the mother said it’s worth the drive because she’s a firm believer in allowing her children to learn in every way they can.
“It’s really good for them to be here,” she said. “They learn by different situations and experiences, and if they do the same thing every day, they can’t grow mentally.
“There’s only a short amount of time in their lives they can experience that (learning), then after that, it’s like, you’re responsible for making money. I believe when kids aren’t responsible for financial stuff, they can focus on learning, you know? That’s why I’m thankful for this place.”
MOXI staff recommends visitors make reservations and buy their tickets online in advance, but reservations are not required. Tickets for adults cost $16 and tickets for children ages 3 to 12 are $12. Kids ages 2 or younger can visit the museum free of charge.
Visit moxi.org to learn more.