We’re a STEAM engine to power kids’ imagination, creativity, and love of learning.
Thinkery is where Austin’s children and their families come to enjoy play-based, inquiry-rich, hands-on learning experiences. In 1983, a group of Austin parents and educators created a space to provide innovative new educational and cultural opportunities to local children. Over the next three decades and rooted deeply in its commitment to supporting a thriving Austin community, the Austin Children’s Museum would grow and evolve into Thinkery, which today offers 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor activities for children and families to learn through play.
Through a variety of hands-on, interactive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) exhibits and programs, Thinkery encourages physical, emotional and cognitive development for young learners and fosters joyful curiosity for all ages. Our target ages are newborns through eleven years old, but our interactive experiences are designed to engage learners of all ages!
Thinkery is a 501(c)(3), private non-profit organization; last year we served more than 460,000 children and their grown-ups.
To create innovative learning experiences that equip and inspire the next generation of creative problem solvers.
A creative community with a passion for lifelong learning and discovery.
We will be INCLUSIVE by making every facet relevant and accessible to all.
We will promote EXCELLENCE as a dynamic standard for which we serve at the very best of our ability.
We will amplify RESPECT by treating people with honor and dignity.
We will spark INNOVATION by embracing risk and seeing failure as lessons learned.
We will encourage PLAYFULNESS with the confidence to let go and enjoy.
We will foster COOPERATION by working together to form a collaborative best.
We will unleash CREATIVITY by exploring the path between what is and what can be imagined.
What We Do
Joyful learning through STEAM-driven play.
Thinkery is where Austin’s children and their families come to enjoy play-based, inquiry-rich, hands-on learning experiences.
We believe that innovative, play-based, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning experiences are a powerful way for children to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and curiosity about the world around them. Our exhibits and programs encourage children—alongside their caregivers—to solve creative challenges, explore a variety of materials, and to develop new ways to complete unfamiliar projects. Through these activities, children gain the tools and confidence to develop and grow into enthusiastic, creative, lifelong STEAM learners and thinkers.
We recognize that Thinkery is a part of a larger learning ecosystem including schools, home, and the local community. We understand that people learn best when those different elements are connected and support each other. Thinkery serves as a center for parent-to-parent connection, community engagement, and supportive caregiver networking. We also partner with other Austin-area nonprofits, businesses, schools and community organizations to share innovative learning experiences throughout Austin.
- Playing is learning.
- Learning is a joyful, fun and lifelong endeavor.
- Children deserve stimulating, sophisticated, well-designed spaces and experiences.
- Children learn best alongside caring, responsive adults.
- Engagement and collaboration with our community are vital to our success.
- We must always approach learning in new and innovative ways.
- We are a community space where people connect, conversations spark, and ideas grow.
How We Do It
Play with a Purpose!
Children learn through play – whether it’s a child-led exploration of the connections between water and sound in Currents; alongside an adult directing your own Stop Motion Animation Station movie in Innovators’ Workshop, an exploration of sensations in Kitchen Lab; experimentation with movement in a Move Studio obstacle course; diving into imaginary worlds during Storytime; or testing out an idea with new materials making your own cardboard creation in a Spark Shop making activity. Play helps develop the ability to imagine, perceive, reason, and problem solve while building a foundation for a lifetime of learning.
Build STEAM Knowledge
Children begin developing an understanding of STEAM concepts as infants. To support this, Thinkery provides fun, engaging, high-quality STEAM experiences that cut across subject areas and set the stage for how they approach learning into adulthood. Thinkery children explore cause and effect with electricity and switches during a Scribble Bot Birthday Party, play with patterns manipulating colors in Light Lab, test structure and purpose designing a catapult in Camp, and investigate size and purpose of tiny structures at Micro Eye.
While all children are born with an innate sense of curiosity about the world around them, they need adults to foster, guide and amplify their interests in STEAM. By providing opportunities for parents and caregivers to share in joyful, positive STEAM learning experiences and to see themselves as essential parts of their child’s early learning, we set children up for future success.
Nurturing scientific thinking is essential for developing curious, creative and bold lifelong STEAM learners and thinkers. Thinkery uses the process of inquiry to promote scientific reasoning. We “hand the reins” to children and adults to explore what they find curious–which leads to asking questions, making discoveries, and testing those discoveries in the search for new understanding.
We believe the principles of inquiry and lifelong learning are equally important for our visitors and for ourselves as an organization. Thinkery approaches exhibit and educational program design as an evolving process. We believe our exhibits and educational programs can be expanded and improved: we involve a diverse staff, our visitors and our community to continually enhance our learning experiences.
Promote Positive Adult-Child Relationships
Thinkery supports adults in the vital work of parenting and caregiving. Adult engagement within a free-choice learning environment is necessarily diverse and multi-faceted. Thinkery provides multiple entry points for adult engagement, integrating opportunities for grown-ups to observe - a child create a masterpiece at Paint Wall, facilitate – an improvement on a co-designed bridge at Build Landscape, and collaborate with – creating a temporal “family portrait” in Frozen Shadows.
In partnership with The University of Texas at Austin and local community organizations, we increase parent/caregiver understanding of early childhood development, children’s scientific reasoning and research-based parenting strategies to enhance parent-child bonding and family well-being.
Austin Children’s Museum was founded in 1983 by a grassroots group of parents and educators who wanted local children to have more educational and cultural opportunities. At that time, we were a “museum without walls”—our founder drove tabletop exhibits around town in her station wagon and presented activities and programs in schools, parks, libraries and, yes, even malls.
In 1987, we settled into our first brick-and-mortar home—a 5,000-square-foot building on W. 5th St. For the next 10 years, we presented exhibits, experiences and educational programs for local kids and families. During this time, we developed exhibits that traveled to other children’s museums around the country, gaining quite a reputation.
By the mid 1990s, Austin was booming, and we had outgrown our home. Fortunately, the community recognized the importance of our organization and supported an expansion campaign. The result was our 1997 move to downtown Austin’s warehouse district. Relocating to our 2nd St. facility through a 10-year, rent-free lease was a huge step for Austin Children’s Museum, but we knew when we opened the doors that Austin was growing and we’d eventually need to expand.
In December 2013, Austin Children’s Museum became Thinkery and opened at its new location—a 40,000-square-foot facility in the Mueller community. Thinkery delivers its mission through a variety of exhibits and programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Museum activities revolve around educational experiences led by staff, so each visit is different from the last!
Patricia “Trish” Young Brown, Chief Executive Officer, joined Thinkery on January 17, 2017. Trish has more than 20 years of experience leading multiple healthcare and community based organizations, most recently as President and CEO of Central Health, the Travis County Healthcare District created by the voters of Travis County in May of 2004. Trish is a long time member of the Austin Area Research Organization, a nonpartisan group of 100 community committed business leaders that champion regional solutions to regional challenges. She is a Certified Public Accountant and holds a BS in Accounting from the University of Denver. She is currently a part-time student at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest pursuing a Masters in Spiritual Formation (MSF) degree.
Devin Thomas, Director of Finance, has been working with nonprofit organizations across the country in the areas of finance and operations for more than fifteen years. Before he began working at Thinkery in 2014, he was the Director of Operations for Artspace, a visual arts center and artist studio building in Raleigh, NC where he led the organization to develop benchmarking and analytic tools for measuring performance and designed a three-year budget process. Prior to that position, Devin was the Business Director for InsightLA, a mindfulness meditation center in Los Angeles. Trained as an orchestral musician, Devin has a BS degree from Indiana University and began his career working in the administrative offices of symphony orchestras, serving for several years as the Executive Director of the Norwalk Symphony in Connecticut. When he is not at work, Devin enjoys cooking, listening to (and making) music and being a dad.
Jessica Campos Hernandez, Director of Development and Marketing, brings more than a decade of fundraising experience to Thinkery, having spent the last 12 years working in fundraising and development at The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining Thinkery in 2017, she was a Major Gifts Officer at the Cockrell School of Engineering. Jessica holds a BBA in Marketing from McCombs School of Business at UT Austin. She enjoys spending her free time cooking, as well as traveling with her husband and twin boys.
Adrienne Barnett, Director of Learning Experiences, has more than 17 years of science education and museum administration experience working in science/children’s museums, including Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA and Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, CA. In 2015, she returned to her hometown of Austin to join Thinkery, bringing her passion for informal education and a commitment to community engagement. She’s been an Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Diversity & Leadership Fellow since 2010 and has a BS in Geology from the University of Texas, a Master of Museum Studies and Master of Business Administration from John F. Kennedy University, Berkeley, CA. When not at work, she loves taking her son, daughter and dog hiking and swimming in her favorite childhood spots like Bull Creek and Lake Travis.
2018–19 Executive Committee
Lisa Zapalac, Board President
Long-View Micro School
Richard McDonell, Past President
Daniel Cooley, President Elect
John Antonelli, Treasurer
Antonelli's Cheese Shop
Michelle Moore Smith, Secretary
Members at Large
Long-View Micro School
Antonelli's Cheese Shop
Michelle Moore Smith
The Bingham Group
Bryan St. George
Carolina de Onis
Teacher Retirement System of Texas
Aetna, a CVS Health Company
Q2 Holdings Inc.
2018-19 Richard McDonell
2017–18 Susan Espinoza
2016–17 Jessica Palvino
2015–16 Yuen Yung
2014–15 Peter Donovan
2013–14 Carla Pineyro Sublett
2012–13 Russell Young
2011–12 Rosalind George
2009–11 Jed Buie
2008–09 John Graff
2006–08 Sylvia Maggio
2005–06 Judy Corder
2005–06 Shannon Ratliff, II
2004–05 Susan Engelking
2003–04 Juan Garcia
2002–03 Kirk Dando
2001–02 Gerald Torres
2000–01 Gregory A. Kozmetsky
1999–2000 Marla Bommarito-Crouch
1998–99 Jim Susman
1997–98 Lynn Meredith
Thinkery is firmly commitment to your privacy. We do not collect personally identifying information about you when you visit our site, unless you choose to provide such information to us. Providing such information is strictly voluntary. This policy is your guide to how we will handle information we learn about you from your visit to our website and museum.
Use of Links
Within our website, we may provide links to other servers which may contain information of interest to our readers. We take no responsibility for, and exercise no control over, the organizations, views, or accuracy of the information contained on other servers. Creating a text link from your website to our site does not require permission.
Use of Text and Images
If you would like to publish information that you find on our website, please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Where text or images are posted on our site with the permission of the original copyright holder, a copyright statement appears at the bottom of the page.
This website is designed to be accessible to visitors with disabilities, and to comply with federal guidelines concerning accessibility. We welcome your comments. If you have suggestions on how to make the site more accessible, please contact us at email@example.com.
Reading or Downloading
We collect and store only the following information about you: The name of the domain from which you access the internet, the date and time you access our site, and the Internet address of the website from which you linked to our site. This is all information obtained from Google Analytics. We use the information we collect to measure the number of visitors to the different sections of our site and to help us make our site more useful to visitors.
Contact Information and Donations
If you complete the online profile update form and share your personally identifying information, this information will be used only to provide you with more targeted content. We may use your contact information to send further information about our organization or to contact you when necessary. You may always opt-out of receiving future mailings—see the “Opt Out” section below.
In supporting Thinkery—whether through donations or membership—we will ask that you provide personal information to us, including name, address, email, and phone number. This information will be used to correspond with you regarding your support. We will never sell your personal information. We will occasionally share Member information, specifically names and addresses (we will never share your giving history, phone number or email address) with like-minded nonprofit organizations in Austin. To request that your name and address not be shared, please send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sending us an Email
You also may decide to send us personally identifying information, for example, in an electronic mail message containing a question or comment, or by filling out a Web form that provides us this information. We use personally identifying information from email primarily to respond to your requests. We may forward your email to other employees who are better able to answer your questions. We may also use your email to contact you in the future about our programs that may be of interest.
We will not obtain personally identifying information about you when you visit our site unless you choose to provide such information to us. Providing such information is strictly voluntary. Except as might be required by law, we do not share any information we receive with any outside parties.
If you sign up for one of our email lists, we will only send you the types of information you have requested. We won’t share your name or email address with any outside parties.
Opt-Out or Change Your Contact Information
You may choose to receive only specific communications (such as our newsletter) or none at all. You may also update your contact information previously provided to us through another online form. You cannot remove yourself from our database, but you can prevent unwanted communication. To request that your name and address not be shared, please send an email request to email@example.com.
Photography and filming are conducted by Thinkery for marketing and educational purposes. Entering the museum and/or purchase of an admission or program ticket constitutes your consent for Thinkery to use any photos, images or film it deems appropriate without payment, inspection or review.
All rights to the photographs and video belong to the museum. If you want a photograph or video removed of yourself or dependents on any of our web channels, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to take photos and post about your visit. We love seeing and sharing (with permission) visitor photos on our social media outlets—when posting your photos, add the hashtag #ThinkeryATX so we can see them, too! When photographing more than just your group, please be considerate and respectful of other visitors’ privacy.
If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your dealings with this website, you can contact us at email@example.com.
Read and download Thinkery's Annual Report (PDF).
Thinkery is funded through a combination of philanthropic gifts and earned income. Additionally, the museum is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.