The Fullerton-based Museum of Teaching and Learning (MOTAL) has received a $500,000 grant in the 2020-2021 California Budget. The money will be used to help fund a mobile exhibit about the importance of brain development in the first five years of a child’s life when “explosive brain growth in the earliest years creates a critical window of time for children’s long-term brain development,” according to a museum press release.
Unlike earlier MOTAL exhibits, Brain Odyssey: From Conception to Kindergarten will be housed in a large moving van capable of being driven from venue to venue instead of being exhibited in fixed locations. The $500,000, which comes in the form of a matching grant, will be used for curriculum development, design and fabrication of exhibit materials, software to operate interactive stations, and other necessary facilities for the van. The program’s $1.5 million budget is also expected to cover exhibit staffing.
MOTAL founder and Board President Greta Nagel, Ph.D., said that the education system in the U.S. is skewed toward older learners. Parents and caregivers are often not aware of the profound effects their own behavior can have on the development of young children in their care.
Nagel was initially surprised by news of the grant, having applied for the funds two years ago, before the pandemic through the office of 65th District Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. Quirk-Silva, announced the new grant as one of several procured by her office for Orange County non-profits in the current State budget.
Brain Odyssey was developed over two and a half years with experts from Cal State Fullerton’s Departments of Child and Adolescent Studies and Human Services. Its $1.5 million budget is much more ambitious than that of past MOTAL exhibits. “We always say we do million dollar exhibits in under a 100k. We’re in a new ballpark,” said Nagel.
Founded in 2007, MOTAL has produced several exhibits about education pioneers, practices, and history. Three have travelled to other venues, including A Class Action, which told the story of Mendez v. Westminster School District, a pioneering school desegregation case in Orange County.
According to MOTAL, “The mobile museum will be trucked to places such as community centers, community colleges, hospitals, children’s centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, malls, public events, high schools, and universities.” More than 50,000 visitors are expected in the first year. Initial tours would be confined to locations in Orange County, but with additional funding, the mobile exhibit could be replicated for visits in other areas.