The Children’s Museum of the East End – CMEE – is a vital part of the East End community. Their mission, as described on their website, 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 opened its current home in Bridgehampton in October 2005 and soon became one of the most loved and visited museums on Long Island, bringing in nearly 75,000 visitors each year, as noted on their website.
Hamptons.com recently spoke with Liz Bard, CMEE’s Director of Education and currently serving as co-president along with Director of Development Lara Sweeney.
During Covid, CMEE has become even more important to the community, taking on a number of different roles. As Liz Bard explains, “the museum is currently open by reservation – families can go on the website, cmee.org, to reserve a day and time to visit. There are three time periods available each day, and attendance at each session is limited.”
A survey CMEE conducted during Covid found that many families were experiencing food insecurity, so the museum started a food pantry that is now licensed. “We went from 18 to 78 families,” Liz explained. Biweekly CMEE distributes groceries, and they’re also supported by Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett as well as Island Harvest and Long Island Cares. Food is distributed to the client families on a day when the museum is closed. “We’ve been able to continue to serve the community in a way that is relevant, even when we were closed,” says Liz.
CMEE also has a Head Start program – one of two museums in the U.S. to have one. They also rent out space to teachers for activities like music lessons (which have been held outdoors to meet the needs of families with young children). CMEE also started an early childhood program for 2 to 3 year olds during the pandemic. Many of the families from last year’s summer camp stayed on, so CMEE continued to run childcare programs Monday through Friday throughout the school year..
The exhibits reopened in August 2020, with masks required indoors and out for everyone older than 2 years. The museum is open at reduced capacity, by reservation, and they’re now returning to a more normal event schedule. A perennially popular event coming up at CMEE is Big Truck Day, on October 23, when all sorts of big trucks are on site – tractor trailers, school buses, moving vans, fire trucks and more – for families to explore. “Kids love Big Truck Day,” says Liz, “it’s one of our most popular events!” Another favorite, the annual Halloween Bash, is already sold out for this year. At Christmastime, CMEE holds a gingerbread house decorating fundraiser, in which families buy a pre-built gingerbread house and decorating supplies, and decorate their own house. Last year the event was virtual, with everyone decorating houses at home and sharing photos. Families can purchase houses online and pick them up at CMEE as early as Thanksgiving weekend.
CMEE also hosts a variety of programs for children with special needs, including a sensory morning, with occupational therapists in attendance. Over the holidays CMEE includes a sensory-safe holiday party with Hudson’s Helping Hands providing a judgment-free space for kids with disabilities.
CMEE is a vital, active part of the community, enriching the lives of so many East End children. In fact, CMEE “graduates” come back to help with summer programs and to volunteer.
For more info, visit www.cmee.org