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A Place Of Wonder - The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County


The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County
A Place Of Wonder

By Collette Michaud

The Children’s Museum of Sonoma County has opened two new exhibits to delight and entertain children of all ages. 

TOTopia is designed for children 2½ years old or younger, and offers hands-on exhibits for crawlers and toddlers to learn through exploration.  The interactive exhibits include a flower pit, a ball wall, a river bridge, a tide pool area and a storybook cottage, perfect for enjoying a teddy bear tea.

Teaddy Bear Tea at the Children's Museum of Sonoma CountyThe space will feature “TOTopia PLAYdates” twice a month where a development docent from the Early Learning Institute, located in Rohnert Park, will be on hand to answer questions and chat with parents and other caregivers about developmental topics and concerns.  In addition to the current exhibits, a Parent Resource Center will come online in the next few months.  Located in TOTopia, the Center will provide resource materials and free internet access to parents and caregivers while their children play and learn.

The new Ornithopter exhibit at the Children’s Museum is inspiring the next generation of young pilots, aspiring doctors and nature enthusiasts. Located in Mary’s Garden, a retired REACH medical service helicopter has been transformed into an ornithopter resembling a dragonfly for visitors to explore.

From the outside, guests can peer at the large multi-faceted eyes, ever-changing with Chromaflair paint. Children can replicate the egg-laying process with plastic balls and with a turn of a wheel, the dragonfly’s wings will take flight. Inside, the Ornithopter remains the interior of medical service helicopter. Young visitors can pretend to radio the hospital, pilot the helicopter or take a patient’s stats from a gurney in the back. 

This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of REACH and the family of the late Dr. John L. McDonald.

Founded in 1987 by Dr. John L. McDonald, REACH utilizes helicopters and airplanes to transport critically ill or injured patients. Dr. McDonald served as REACH’s medical director and chief proponent of “doing what is right for the patient” until the time of his death in 2000.

Inside TOTopia at the Children's Museum of Sonoma CountyDr. McDonald founded the county’s first emergency department at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, developed and became the Medical Director of the county’s first paramedic program, founded REACH Air Medical Services, and with the help of others was instrumental in the development of the county’s first trauma center.

With a deep passion for providing excellent medical care, Dr. McDonald had a special interest in ensuring REACH’s smallest patients — the children — were well cared for.

Whenever children peered through the fence at the first REACH base here in Santa Rosa, Dr. McDonald would invite them in to see the helicopter up close. Now thousands of kids who visit the museum can explore the helicopter, let their imaginations soar and learn about biomimicry.

The transformed Agusta 109A helicopter was a fully operational air ambulance used by REACH to transport thousands of critically ill or injured patients throughout the region. REACH helicopters transport patients from the scene of an accident to the local trauma center and also from one hospital to another when specialized services are required. 

Museum hours are 9am – 4pm Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-4pm on Sundays.  Admission is $10 per person.