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Science Comes Alive

A Space for Children to Invent Unique and Exciting Creations

The Bakken Museum wants to make science exciting. “All of our programs are hands-on, interactive and they're really based in humor,” says Laura Whittet, director of marketing and communications. “We want to make sure that science is not intimidating, but instead engaging and fun.”

The museum, located in Minneapolis, was founded by Earl Bakken, who was fascinated by electricity and all that it could do. After watching the film Frankenstein as a child, he was inspired to pursue a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Later, he would go on to co-found Medtronic, one of the world's largest medical device companies. 

Today, along with interactive exhibits, a medicinal garden, and a world-renowned collection of artifacts, the institution provides a variety of educational programs and has become a nationally recognized STEM education center.

One way in which it shares its founder’s fascination is through summer camps. The Young Makers Camp, for students in grades two and three, are half-day camps, and just like in the full-day Camp Innovation for students in grades four through nine, these youngsters get to work with real tools, laser printers, and all that goes into building a project. 

“Something that’s really unique to the Bakken Museum camps is that they're really not prescriptive,” she says. “Rather than giving kids a kit to make, what we do is ask them what they see as a problem in their lives and what’s something they would like to change or make better.”

The instructors, some of whom have been through the camps themselves, and others who are in the engineering sector, then work with the kids to make a plan to develop something that they can build using tools in its Makerspace. “That can be something like a new kind of boat they make out of cardboard,” says Laura. “These pieces usually have some sort of electricity in them. Last year we had a kid make a really great catamaran that had working lights. The students learn how to do the actual wiring, learn about electricity, and how to use the tools to build things.”

In these classes, failure is just fine. “In fact, we love failure, and our goal is to really not steer kids away from that, but to allow them to process and learn when they make a mistake.”

One parent states, “My camper enjoyed it fully. He spoke with pride about the things he learned and tried - soldering, for example - and the project he completed. It was a thrill to hear the sense of achievement in his voice. My kids appreciate the freedom to pursue projects of their choice.” 

In addition to summer camps, the museum also offers Break Camps during the winter and spring when kids are off from school. Another program during the school year is its Inventors Club. “We have a Young Makers Inventors Club for the little ones and then we have our core Inventors Club for older kids,” she says. “These programs are held for four Saturdays for the younger group and six Saturdays for the older kids.”

The Bakken Museum also has a huge outreach education program, where instructors travel to libraries, schools and community centers outside of the area.

As a non-profit organization, the Bakken Museum needs support to offer all that it does, and to also provide programs for children who can’t afford them. People can sign up for memberships, they can volunteer to teach or to maintain the beautiful gardens, and of course, they can make financial donations, which are always appreciated. 

To learn more, go to

3537 Zenith Ave S. | (612)-926-3878