Our Executive Director Jackie Erdman gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it has been like to lead the museum through the pandemic.

In the Opinion Article in the Sheboygan Press, our Executive Director Jackie Erdman gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it has been like to lead the Museum through a pandemic. 

Jackie wrote:

The one question I’ve been asked over and over since starting my tenure at Above & Beyond Children’s Museum is, “What’s it like coming on in the midst of the pandemic?” My answer, consistently and with a smile on my face, is “Oh, it’s pure chaos.”

I began my position as executive director of our beloved museum in the first week of April, right as the COVID pandemic tightened its grip on the United States. Above & Beyond Children's Museum had closed its doors as soon as the threat was clear in March, which meant I came on with no staff and a dark venue. There were no guest services staff to greet as I walked in on my first day, and no pitter patter of little feet running above my head while I worked in my office on the lower level. I had to dig deep, shift my mindset, and my motivational motto became “Let’s get our family back.” By family, I mean our staff, volunteers, and the families and caregivers that consider Above & Beyond Children's Museum a second home. The board members and my predecessor, Emily Rendall-Araujo, have been truly amazing — they made sure I had what I needed and was supported every step of the way.

Jackie Erdman is the executive director of Above & Beyond Children's Museum.

The first task to complete was to bring back staff through federal aid. The second was to completely reimagine summer programs and start putting a team together to create our recovery plan, AKA Above & Beyond Children's Museum’s Pandemic Playbook. The third was to make sure we could reopen our doors if the pandemic lasted longer than three months. That became the most important and has culminated in our Playing it Safe campaign. This fundraising campaign has been initiated for Above & Beyond Children's Museum’s preparations to reopen. To make it through this unprecedented situation, the museum is actively fundraising with hopes to raise $130,000 to recover lost revenue from programs and admissions and pay for operating expenses. Since the museum’s closure on March 15, we remain constrained by health restrictions on impending costs placed on interactive museums and equipment needs to operate safely.

The biggest thing I’ve learned in the midst of this crisis is that it is alright to essentially throw out the playbook and start from scratch. There is a creative freedom that comes with the need to do so. We have created new and innovative offerings through collaborations with organizational partners and have been listening closely to our community to meet its needs.

Our partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Sheboygan County, Mental Health America of Sheboygan County and Nourish Farms has allowed us to offer thousands of families free take-home Summer Activity Packages that consist of assorted activities. Each kit encourages mindfulness, healthy habits, STEAM exploration, and most importantly, fun for all ages. I have also seen, firsthand, the powerful effect the newly completed The Happiness Project whale mural on our building’s north wall has had on the community. At a time when our future was unknown, the mural was a beacon of light — not just to our community — but to our staff, our board members, and our artist who poured her heart and soul into every brushstroke. 

So, what is it like for those who have been forced to close their doors? It’s chaos — but the type of chaos that makes you roll up your sleeves and get to work. Because not reopening just isn’t an option. 

Click here to read the article on the Sheboygan Press website.