San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, has appointed Krishna Kabra as its new executive director.
Kabra replaces Wendy Taylor— the museum’s outgoing executive director— who has accepted a position in her home state of Texas as executive director of the Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo.
The museum is based at 320 N Broadway, across the street from Grape Day Park.
The Times-Advocate caught up with Kabra during her second week on the job. “It’s a lot to take in all at once,” she said. The most challenging part, she said, “is trying to figure out where the organization is at. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Some of our team has been furloughed and like many nonprofits we have had to pivot quickly.”
Asked when the museum will reopen, she replied, “We have had a very watchful eye on what the schools are doing. We’re definitely in a holding pattern as far as reopening. The additional dynamic is that we are dealing with young children too. Within the museum so much of our materials and exhibits are based on hands-on learning, so we have to be really cautious when we open and when people consider it to be safe—so we will honor that.”
Although some staff have been furloughed, at the moment most of the senior team, including operations, education and marketing, are in place. Without the ability to physically welcome the children they serve to the campus, explains Kabra, “We’ve pivoted to digital content. We are serving our families with virtual programming.”
A Chrysalis Stage
Something that was born out of necessity has, says Kabra, turned into something, “actually pretty amazing. I described it when I talked to my marketing team that we are in a chrysalis stage where, there is an opportunity. This has allowed us to consider the right mix of virtual programming with hands on.”
She added, “It’s an enterprising opportunity to pivot into new areas of early childhood education and enrichment and, most important, deliver what parents really need during these incredibly challenging times.”
Example: Saturday the museum hosted a virtual science and engineering event. “What was so beautiful, we had live Facebook streaming to talk about science, and we supplied kits,” said Kabra. The kits were hands-on science projects the children could do related to the theme of the day. The kits were mailed to them or they picked them up at the museum.
“The Facebook streaming is the beginning,” she said. “It sets the tone and theme and gives the children a sense of what the day will consist of. We encourage them to work on their science project when they have time with their family. At end of day we do a live Facebook stream and close out the day and ask some to share what they did. During the day we also have a Storytime related to the theme.” That day the story was about a little girl becoming an engineer. The stories are told in an interactive way that allows the children to become part of the story.
One question that occurs is how children with no access to the internet can benefit from these programs?
“We haven’t come across those who don’t have access to internet,” Kabra answered. “The challenge is having the guidance to be pointed in the right direction. There is less shepherding with this kind of programming. We are trying to come up with solutions that mitigate that. We have talked about offering an enrichment series. The hard thing for young children is having a centralized place to store educational material.”
She continued, “If you have a young child you are trying to prepare for kindergarten there is an opportunity to teach them social and emotional skills that would assist them, like problem solving or advocating for yourself. Those types of tools and techniques are hard to find in a central place. We would love to be able to provide families almost a series or circulation that spans four to six weeks. One they could buy or have access to and use at home while the schools are still closed.”
The Children’s Discovery Museum team is working to develop such a resource. “I started last week,” said Kabra. Her background is in innovation and marketing strategy in the corporate world, where as part of two large agencies, she worked on brands such as Coca Cola, Wrigley, Unilever and L’Oréal. She consciously changed her career towards the world of nonprofit.
She has talked to her team as to what such a resource might look like. “From our point of view we feel it would resonate. But we need to check with them [patrons] to see if would be of interest them.” She added, “There is still due diligence to perform but it still feels it is in the right space.”
She added, “I feel that—given where we are at in the world with COVID and the uncertainty we all face, thinking with an innovative and creative mindset where the opportunities lies could be quite helpful.”
Kabra previously served on the museum board. Although she has only been at her job two weeks, she has spoken to the board about how the organization can “pivot creatively” to function creatively within the COVID environment. “Another thing is we have an outdoor space and we are asking if there is a safe way to use that space,” she said. “We are still mulling over what that looks like. It’s critical that what we offer in that space can be managed correctly.”
The challenge is, “How can we serve our members in a way that fulfills their current needs?” Being forced by necessity to offer many services virtually has also opened up a new world of possibilities. “What’s beautiful about the virtual environment is that our audience is much larger,” said Kabra. “We’ve had families from out of state and across the country join us.”
But the Children’s Discovery Museum has also given itself the challenge of supporting local businesses and their employees. “For example, we provide services to school districts and families and other local organizations. There is an opportunity to support them with helping the parents with STEM [Science Technology Engineering and Math] based materials. Widening the group that we serve.”
They are looking at ways to reach children with new opportunities. “We have our mobile museum,” she said. “How do we use it in a safe way? Visit local parks with popups? Outdoor yoga or an arts project? There are opportunities. It’s how to we bring our services in a safe way?
To find out more about the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum visit sdcdm.org or call 760-233-7755.