Fun Times at Barnetimen

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Min Yu with daughter, Sofia, at a past Barnetimen event.

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By Alex Robinson (updated for 2017-18) • Photos courtesy Vesterheim Museum

Exploration, creativity, history – and a snack. It’s the perfect combination of things for the children and care-givers who head to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum’s Barnetimen (Norwegian for “children’s hour”).

The collaborative effort of Jennifer Kovarik of Vesterheim and Decorah’s ArtHaus director and instructor Shannon Dallenbach Durbin, Barnetimen creates space for children to interact, play, create, and learn.

Held from 10-11 am on the third Tuesday of every month, each themed event utilizes the museum’s rotating and permanent exhibits. Activities are geared toward children ages 3-5, along with their parents or adult supervisor, and sessions are free of charge and open to the public with no sign-up needed.

Decorah resident Brenda Carlson helped conceive the idea of Barnetimen back in the early 2000s as a means of involving younger families with the museum. Carlson felt that Vesterheim, one of Decorah’s most iconic attractions, had a lot to offer young children in their development.

The partnership between ArtHaus and Vesterheim began in 2010, expanding upon Barnetimen’s original concept to include an interactive, artistic component. The program continues to grow today, with regular attendance of about 30-40 children per session along with their parents, grandparents, friends, and teachers.

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Barnetimen is free of charge thanks to sponsors David and Brenda Carlson, Keith and Amy Bruening, and Norwegian Mutual Insurance Association. Pictured with children attending Barnetimen – Left to right, back row – Eric Petersen-Brant, Amy Bruening, Shawna Wagner, David Carlson, Chris Johnson. Middle row – Nicholas Klein, Brenda Carlson, and Jenni Petersen-Brant.

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Barnetimen’s coordinators love the energy and wonder children bring to the museum.

“Going to a museum should be fun, and you should have some ‘wow’ moments,” says Kovarik, Youth Educator at Vesterheim. “Children aren’t afraid to have ‘wow’ moments or fun out loud.”

The 2017-2018 Barnetimen season kicked off Tuesday, September 19, 2017 with Symbols and Shapes.

Kovarik says the goal of Barnetimen is to, “help kids become mini-explorers who know how to seek out interesting objects and use what they see or find to make something new and creative.” And Vesterheim is the perfect place to do just this – like in Vesterheim’s ship gallery, where children can learn about the many different vessels used to cross the Atlantic, like the “Tradewind,” a boat sailed by two Norwegian brothers across the Atlantic in 1933. The whole 25-foot sailboat sits inside a large room in Vesterheim!

Be sure to bring your own explorers to the Vesterheim lobby at 10 am for some exciting “wow” museum moments!

For information about Barnetimen, please contact Jennifer Kovarik at 563-382-9681 or jkovarik@vesterheim.org, or check vesterheim.org. More information about ArtHaus can be found at www.arthausdecorah.org.

With world-class exhibitions and 12 historic buildings in scenic Decorah, Iowa, Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, showcases the best in historic and contemporary Norwegian folk and fine arts, and explores the American immigrant experience. This national treasure is also a center for folk-art education, offering a wide variety of classes in authentic Norwegian folk art every year. For more information on the museum’s exhibitions, classes, events, membership opportunities, and ways to donate, check Vesterheim’s website at vesterheim.org, call (563) 382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum,502 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.

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Barnetimen sessions are held on the third Tuesday of the month, and begin at 10 a.m. and last an hour. The 2017-2018 dates and themes are:

September 19, 2017  – Symbols and Shapes

October 17, 2017 – Photography

November 21, 2017 – Spoons

December 19, 2017 – Holiday Traditions

January 16, 2018 – Birthdays

February 20, 2018 – Hearts

March 20, 2018 –Mittens

April 17, 2018 – Rainbows

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