About the CMA

The Children’s Museum of Acadiana (CMA) is a hands-on participatory museum serving children and their families, schools, and community organizations by providing interactive exhibits, special services, performances, and workshops.

The CMA is Committed to:

  • Serving young children, ages ten and under, and their families through hands-on interactive exhibits, projects, and programs.
  • Providing engaging exhibits, projects, and programs that teach cultural understanding and positive social interaction and celebrate diversity.
  • Reaching a broad audience and encouraging exploration, imagination, curiosity, and creativity while learning by doing.
  • Meeting and exceeding the Louisiana school curriculum benchmarks.
  • Serving as a gateway to other cultural institutions and community programs.
  • Supporting a diverse staff and Board of Directors committed to children and bringing creativity and expertise to the CMA.

The Children’s Museum of Acadiana History:

The Children’s Museum of Acadiana (CMA) is a private non-profit corporation founded in 1990 by three women who recognized the need for a hands-on children’s museum in Acadiana. The CMA, housed in a circa 1935 building formerly operating as Heymann Grocery Store in downtown Lafayette, LA, underwent renovations beginning in 1994 through a community effort utilizing primarily donated labor and materials by the people of Acadiana. The CMA opened its doors to the public in January 1996 and remains the longest-running premier children’s museum in the eight-parish Acadiana area (Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion). Within our mission parameters, the CMA serves children Pre-K thru ten years. In six years of planning and 27 years of operations, the CMA now serves approximately 44,600 annual visitors and schools representing 37 central and south Louisiana parishes and works collaboratively with over 27 agencies in the Acadiana region, benefiting children and their families.

The CMA exists to foster a creative environment through “hands-on” exhibits and programs where children and their families explore and make discoveries that de-mystify everyday experiences, cultures, and human differences. As a first-museum experience, we want to enhance the lives of children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and to provide an environment inspiring self-expression and achieving self-esteem while learning respect for others. Central to our philosophy that a child “learns by doing”, we wish to serve as both a learning resource for educators and a development center exploring new art and informal education methods. We strive to develop a future generation of museum attendees by initiating and encouraging a lifelong love of art through museum experiences as an integral part of their educational process.

The CMA showcases 19 permanent interactive exhibits, various interactive activities, and a multi-faceted, year-round recycled art program, including:

•201 E. Congress, A Site History

• Health Gallery, where children role-play interactive eye and vision displays sponsored by the Southern Eye Bank.

• Ami, the Acadian Ambulance, is a full-size ambulance with flashing lights parked within the museum, promoting exploration and role-playing.

• The Amphitheatre is a 100-seat multi-use indoor arena used for field trip orientations, specialized programming, meetings, etc.

• STEM Street provides children an outlet to examine, tinker, build, and design with age-

appropriate, hands-on STEM-related activities.

• The Bubble Factory enables a child to experiment with creating differently shaped bubbles and actually standing inside a bubble.

• Busy Spaces positioned throughout the Museum offers fun “busy” pursuits while educating.

• Café des Enfants restaurant allows children to portray the diverse roles and explore the many facets of the food service industry.

• In March 2023, the Cypress Gallery reopened as the permanent Itty Bitty Builders Construction Exhibit, exposing children to trade skills, teamwork, and STEAM learning with basic construction and engineering concepts as they design and build their own structures.

• HAPPY PAWS Hospital “admits” stuffed animals for care by child veterinarians, gaining insightful knowledge on animal care and health maintenance.

• Super 1 Foods Grocery Store provides role-playings as shoppers, cashiers, stock clerks, and stockers.

• Knowledge Nook engages preschool-age children in literacy-strengthening activities in an inviting, cozy space.

• The ReUSEum art room invites children to participate in art workshops using recycled materials.

• Sensory Sea, an ocean-themed exhibit, is designed to engage and develop children’s senses through interactivity.

• Louisiana Culture Corner showcases local South Louisiana folklife, flora, and fauna for children to learn about the special region in which they live.

• Stuffee, a quite large anatomy doll, comes complete with internal organs providing tactile instruction covering the human body’s digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems.

• To Tell the Tooth dental office focuses on dental care for children of all ages displaying actual x-rays and proper brushing techniques.

• Wee Acres, a farm-theme activity area for toddlers, features a farmyard, barn, and homestead, also serving as an observation area for those engaged in child development.

• Go Slow. Whoa! Let children decide what foods they should eat often, what foods they should occasionally, and what foods they should limit to once a week.

• Strictly Briks Makerspace expands creative play while inspiring the next generation of engineers, designers, mathematicians, and beyond.

Using the Museum exhibits and activity stations, the CMA developed and produced eight educational field trip programs keyed to the Louisiana Believes – Louisiana Student Standards. Exploration Expedition! is a K – 3rd-grade program designed to inspire curiosity that can accommodate school groups anytime. In January and February, K and lst grades celebrate their 100th day of school with 100th Day Celebration activities demonstrating and reinforcing the concept of “one hundred.” In February and March, 3rd and 4th grades participate in Got Math. strengthening mathematical principles with real-world scenarios specific to a child’s environment. Touch, Look, Listen, and Learn, developed for Pre-K – 1st grade at the request of educators in the Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) LA4 Early Childhood, concentrates on phonological awareness and printed word recognition. Money Wise: Earn, Spend, and Save provides 1st and 2nd grades with a foundation of financial literacy where students are exposed to wise spending choices and encouraged to save. STEAMology!, a hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics Program, deepens 3rd – 5th graders’ critical thinking skills and teaches collaboration. In 2017, the CMA launched a traveling field trip, CMA on the Go, that CMA staff brings to schools to educate students about STEM concepts and related career opportunities. In addition, in collaboration with LPSS, the CMA developed an English as a Second Language (ESL) summer enrichment program. The CMA’s education-based programs were developed to enhance and extend the classroom curriculum.

In recent years, much of the CMA’s educational programming has been focused on STEAM activities, including STEAMOLOGY, a six-week summer camp designed and produced to inspire learning through creating, experimenting, exploring, and making new friends. Through the Daily Discoveries Program, children can participate in a different STEAM activity during their weekday Museum visit, Tuesday through Friday, all summer long to extend, enhance, and enrich their knowledge of and spark an interest in STEAM concepts. The “STEAMKids Sundays” Program, the CMA offers interactive STEAM education enrichment activities one Sunday per month to children with caregivers’ paid admission (up to two free children per paid adult) that expose children to a wide variety of STEAM concepts and augment knowledge they learn in school. For families that want to stay home, the CMA designed and produced videos that promote STEAM activities, ranging from rainbow reflection science to straw bridge engineering, that can be done with supplies most families have on hand. These videos are available free anytime at https://www.childrensmuseumofacadiana.com/resources/.

Giving children with developmental differences access to the CMA was added to the CMA’s programming priorities several years ago through the launch of Mornings at the Museum, during which only children with developmental differences and their families can visit the Museum during special hours. Lights are dimmed, sounds are diminished, and curated activities are offered to engage these special kids who don’t otherwise have the chance to visit the CMA when it is crowded.

Engaging children in the arts is has been a priority since the CMA’s founding. The ReUseum, a year-round, multi-faceted recycled art curriculum, focuses on art workshops programmed during school holidays and summer vacations and supports a much-requested presence at community outreach experiences. Through the Outdoor Art in Harmony Park Program, children participate in artist instruction and make collaborative artistic creations in the Kiwanis of Acadiana Harmony Park.

Through the CMA Away, We Play Outreach Program; these endeavors serve between 100 – 800 children and their families per event. CMA staff and volunteers annually perform community outreach at approximately twenty local community events and festivals offering children arts and crafts activities. A sampler includes Festival Acadien et Creole (washboards, Kazoos, binoculars, harmonicas, building with wooden blocks), Celtic Festival (pot o’gold plate art), Lafayette Public Library Summer Reading Program (bookmarks), University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun basketball games, CMA staff, and volunteers also take the Program to nonprofits serving children in need like Hope for Opelousas, Miles Perret Cancer Services, and Healing House. Additionally, the CMA supports Healing House as an “adventure location” during its Family Adventure Day in March. In the Kiwanis of Acadiana Harmony Park daily for museum guests and during special events at the Museum and adjacent Parc International. For example, the CMA collaborates with Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (DLU) during its Downtown Alive! concerts and Movies in the Park series.

The Museum has two annual fundraisers: New Year’s Noon and Carnival Countdown and Friends of the CMA Festival Parking, in which RVs rent space to enjoy Festival International every April. Additionally, the CMA hosts three holiday-themed special events: a not so haunted Spooktacular Halloween event, the Twinkle Light Night Christmas party, and Spring Fling – an Egg-stra Special Easter Party. Finally, the CMA remains a popular venue for birthdays and private parties.