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Susan Coffman, left, and her daughter Maggie Byrd and grandson Logan, right, take part in family yoga led by Beth Gherlein, center, at the Children’s Museum Missoula in April.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

If he had to move west in just one wagon, Larkin Faherty would be sure to bring his dog, a bow and arrow, blanket, books and a ball.

The 7-year-old placed those and few other items inside a drawing of a wagon Wednesday at the Children’s Museum Missoula after an educational program about homesteaders.

Eddie Davis, 6, was sure to draw his dog, too, along with dark chocolate.

Eddie’s family came to the museum during an overnight trip to Missoula from Columbia Falls, and his mom Amber Davis said the museum was a must-go place.

“This was one of our goals,” she said.

The museum at 227 1/2 W. Front St. is a kid-friendly place to play with her children without being distracted by other household chores, Larkin’s mom, Gabrielle Sather-Olson, said. They often come to play or participate in programs.

“I think they do a great job of having a variety of programming,” Sather-Olson said.

Programming has always been part of the nonprofit museum, which opened in 2001, but over the past several months it has become more of a collaborative effort between the museum and other community nonprofits and organizations.

The museum strives to create a place for children to learn through play and for families to connect. Special programs expose children to science, technology, art, math, engineering, history, physical activities and more in a fun environment, said Kira Huck, program outreach manager at the museum.

“We don’t want (kids) to think of learning as an obligation,” she said.

Collaborating with other Missoula groups exposes kids to a broad range of topics, while attracting people to the museum, Huck said.

“The more people you have behind something, the more exposure you’re going to get both for them and for us,” she said.

Presentations and activities have been given by The Clay Studio, the Owl Research Institute, Fort Missoula, Missoula Federal Credit Union, Montana Natural History Center, yoga instructors and local firefighters, among others.

“Really with our programs, we want to spark that early love of learning,” Huck said.

“You really need to inspire then when they’re little to care,” Kristjana Eyjolfsson said after showing children artifacts from Fort Missoula pertaining to homesteaders.

If kids are hooked, their interests will grow with them, Eyjolfsson said.

“It’s just a great opportunity to share my passion for history with the little guys,” she said.

After listening to a children’s story about homesteaders and looking at the artifacts, the kids drew what they would take with them in a drawing of a wagon.

Meanwhile, a line had formed by the dino dig area where comic artist Tony Gregori was painting faces.

Gregori is a Wednesday fixture at the museum and he looks forward to seeing smiling children as much as they look forward to him painting their faces. The experience is invigorating because of kids’ sense of curiosity and wonderment, he said.

“I don’t have children of my own, so it’s kind of nice to help out and make kids’ days happier,” he added.

Entrance to programs is included in the $4.25 all-day ticket price or the price of a membership. To learn more about programs and the museum, go to childrensmuseummissoula.org.

Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at alice.miller@missoulian.com.

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