Director of Playful Learning- Bay Area Discovery Museum
Arts Consulting Group
Sausalito, CA 94965
Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) is a children’s museum dedicated to creating playful learning experiences that inspire a lifelong passion for discovery in every child. It is the only children’s museum located within a national park, situated on 2.5-acres in the spectacular Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the foot of the Golden Gate Brigde in Sausalito, California. Housed in an historic fort, the thirty-three-year-old institution serves more than 350,000 children, caregivers, and educators annually, onsite, and in community locations across the region. Annually up to 30 percent of people served do so either free or at significantly reduced cost. The museum features imaginative outdoor and indoor interactive exhibitions, seasonal festivals, and year-round special programs for children six months of age to eight years. In 2021, the museum completed a major $19 million renovation of its campus with five new research-backed exhibits designed by renowned architecture firm Olson Kundig. All museum exhibits provide STEAM-rich (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) environments designed and facilitated specifically for children to learn through active, exploratory, imaginative, risk-friendly play with other children and the adults who care for them.
The museum is a trusted, go-to partner for the community’s educators, childcare providers, and librarians. Serving 25,000 people annually, the museum’s wide-range of offerings include hands-on STEAM workshops for K-4th Grade students onsite and offsite, Discover-It-Yourself fieldtrips for students, professional development workshops and resources for educators. Started in 2008, the Connections program is a multi-visit school readiness program offered in partnership with 90 federally subsidized preschools across the region. The program involves BADM staff visiting the school sites for planning and programming, the classes visiting the museum with their families, and free family memberships for participating families. The Try It Truck is a mobile hands-on engineering lab for young children that travels to schools, community festivals, and libraries across all nine Bay Area counties. The Bay Area Discovery Museum also runs California’s only museum-based preschool, The Discovery School, a unique Reggio-inspired program designed to cultivate children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional growth through collaborative play.
This Director of Playful Learning will play a key role in shaping the future of the Bay Area Discovery Museum and its impact on the lives of young children and the adults who care for and teach them. In February 2022 the board approved “Lead with Joy”, the museum’s new strategic framework that is founded on the belief that play is essential to childrens wellbeing, and when children and families thrive, our communities thrive. The framework details the museum’s strategic commitments for the next five years:
Commitment 1: Providing opportunities for joyful play to every young child in the Bay Area.
Commitment 2: Empowering the adults who teach and care for young children.
Commitment 3: Fostering belonging among the BADM team and communities served.
Commitment 4: Being a trusted and go-to partner for the community.
The framework also describes the core values of the organization, the principles by which they live, work, and make decisions. These values include leading with joy, supporting their people, cultivating curiosity, fostering belonging, and partnering with community. The BADM Board and staff are deeply engaged in the work to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. They believe that engaging, reflecting, and including diverse races, ethnicities, identities, perspectives and life experiences is essential to delivering on the museum’s mission. BADM is working actively to ensure that everyone — families served, BADM staff and trustees, and community partners — feel like they belong and are valued, respected, and supported to participate fully.
BADM is governed by a 28-member board of trustees led by Chair Vijay Mohan and Kelly McKinley who serves as Chief Executive Officer. The museum has an annual budget close to $8M of which 60 percent is earned revenue, and 40 percent from fundraising.
Sources: marincounty.org; census.gov
Situated on the traditional homelands of the Ramaytush and Coast Miwok peoples, San Francisco and Marin Counties, the museum’s immediate neighbors, are home to over a combined 1.1 million residents in the Northern Bay Area. One of the world’s most distinctive and innovative metropolitan centers, the area boasts trend-defining cuisines, distinctive architecture, and world-renowed arts and culture instituitions, and is surrounded by thousands of acres of protected coastal and mountain environments home to world-renowned cycling, hiking, and camping. The 9-County Bay Area is home to approximately 7.8 million residents. The racial composition of the overall region identifies as White (39 percent), Asian (27 percent) Hispanic or Latino (24 percent), Black or African American (6 percent), and as two or more or other races (5 percent).
The Bay Area is also home to more than 300 IT companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter and is the birthplace of the contemporary biotech industry. The Bay Area is also deeply involved in Cleantech, with over 200 firms working on environmentally friendly and sustainable products and services. The area has the largest aggregation of research universities and federal research institutions in the nation. The University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley, and Stanford University, among others, are key drivers of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Bay Area Discovery Museum is part of an extensive network of regional arts and culture organizations including many that serve families and children. In addition to the Bay Area arts, music, festival, and science centers that feature select programs for children, the Exploratorium, Children’s Creativity Museum, Children’s Discovery Museum, Randall Museum, CuriOdyssey, and the Lawrence Hall of Science share in mission-focused programs designed to enrich early childhood experiences for young Bay Area residents and their caregivers.
Sources: bayareaequityatlas.org/indicators/race-ethnicity#/; sfchamber.com/resources/economic-development/key-sectors-2
Reporting to the CEO and serving as a member of the leadership team, the Director of Playful Learning (DPL) provides strategic leadership for all aspects of the museum’s programs, both onsite and offsite, that engage community audiences through play-based learning. The DPL also impacts earned revenue, collaborating closely with the leadership team on a comprehensive set of activities that deeply engage and inspire the community to participate actively in the museum. The DPL participates as a member of the leadership team accountable for the overall success of the organization. Supervising and mentoring new and experienced teams, including managers directly reporting to the position, the DPL will collaborate regularly with other museum departments as well as community partners to support BADM’s overall goals and mission. The DPL will continually assess, refine, and update programs and staffing practices to ensure that the museum is positioned to grow and sustain its reach and impact for all audiences in the Bay Area. The DPL will demonstrate a professional commitment to Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion and be thoughtful and open about the role of a workplace and a cultural institution in creating a sense of welcome and belonging for staff and visitors.
Role and Responsibilities
Strategic Vision and Leadership
- Establish the vision for BADM’s community engagement and impact through research, development, implementation, and evaluation of a multi-year strategy for onsite and offsite engagement including exhibits, festivals, pop-up programs, The Discovery School, and daily facilitated playful learning that meet the museum’s strategic participation, community, and revenue goals.
- Collaborate with the leadership team to set annual priorities for research and evaluation, identify key success metrics for visitor experience and community engagement, model data-informed strategy development and decision-making, and ensure shared cross-functional accountability and consistent storytelling regarding progress and impact.
- Employ knowledge and experience that undo systemic barriers to participation and belonging in cultural organizations, increasing the sense of welcome and belonging at all museum activities for all participants.
- Advance strategic communications of key BADM decisions to the community, board, staff, and stakeholders of the organization and develop the museum’s role as a community anchor.
Program and Community Engagement
- Lead and direct the Learning and Museum Experience team on annual and multi-year engagement and program strategies, ensuring all programs and experiences embrace creativity and innovation, and are grounded in BADM’s pedagogical framework and research, reflect the museum’s brand and values, and respond to the needs and interests of children six months to eight years and their caregivers.
- Serve as the museum’s representative on formal community partnerships and initiatives, developing and stewarding relationships with school and community leaders serving young children and their caregivers, and engage in dialogue to strategically co-create experiences and programs.
- Lead business and program planning and analysis including directing and managing budgets; establishing and meeting revenue and community participation goals; and reporting on outcomes and learnings.
- Stay abreast of current research and trends in museums, particularly children’s museums as well as early childhood learning and development in both formal and informal learning environments.
- Represent the museum at industry and community events including presenting BADM work at conferences and seminars.
Organizational Collaboration and Department Leadership
- Recruit, direct, coach, and evaluate the senior management of the Learning and Museum Experience team for all of BADM’s engagement platforms, designing staffing models that allow for strategic, efficient, and responsive learning programs.
- In partnership with the Head of Facilities and Exhibit Production, develop and socialize cross-functional collaborative processes to prototype, implement, and evaluate onsite exhibits and campus-wide programs, ensuring the upkeep and safety of all exhibits and environments.
- Collaborate with human resources to develop meaningful strategies to attract and retain diverse talent, representative of the Bay Area’s many communities.
- In consultation with Director of Marketing and Visitor Services, develop and execute an annual calendar of programs and experiences that achieve audience participation and revenue goals, partnering on strategy and messaging across all key program platforms.
- Serve as thought partner to the Development team on fundraising strategy and opportunities, collaborating on the research and development of funding proposals and grants, the preparation of reports, donor communications and donor stewardship.
Traits and Characteristics
The DPL will have the ability to influence and motivate others around a bold and imaginative strategic vision for community engagement and impact, collaborating across the museum to co-create the strategies to achieve that vision. Energized by working in and with the community, the DPL will be an enthusiastic, visible, and informed advocate for the museum who can effectively engage existing and potential partners in BADM’s mission and programs. The DPL will utilize past experiences and seek input to make decisions that propel the museum forward as one of the Bay Area’s anchor community organizations.
Other key competencies of this role include:
- Diplomacy – The dexterity to effectively and tactfully handle difficult or sensitive issues in a manner that demonstrates sensitivity and respects differences.
- Leadership and Teamwork – The aptitude to organize and inspire people to believe in a vision while living and modeling the museum’s values, creating a sense of purpose, and cooperating with others to meet objectives. Models and cultivates a culture of collaboration, accountability, joy, and excellence.
- Time and Priority Management – The ability to prioritize and complete tasks in order to deliver desired outcomes within allotted time frames.
- Decision Making – The capacity to analyze all aspects of a situation to make or facilitate consistently sound and timely decisions.
- Project Management – The capability to identify and oversee all resources, tasks, systems, and people to obtain results.
A bachelor’s degree is required, with at least five years of experience in senior leadership in a museum or education environment and a demonstrated track record of, and passion for, creating innovative and beautiful play-based learning environments, exhibits, and experiences that are relevant to, and beloved by, young children and their caregivers. Experience in early childhood and/or elementary education, museum studies, or informal STEAM learning and programming strongly preferred. A professional commitment to creating a sense of welcome for staff and visitors, with knowledge and experience undoing systemic barriers to participation and belonging in cultural organizations. Superior written and verbal communication skills, along with the ability to make the case for the importance and impact of the museum’s work to potential and established funders and stakeholders preferred.
Compensation and Benefits
The Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) provides a competitive compensation and benefits package, with an annual salary range for the Director of Playful Learning between $130,000 and $150,000, commensurate with experience. BADM provides 100% employer-paid medical, dental, vision, life, and long-term disability insurance to all full-time employees, as well as generous paid time off, and an employee funded retirement savings plan.
The Museum offers a high-energy, results-oriented, creative, and fun environment. Employees enjoy reciprocal admission benefits at other museums, regular all-staff celebrations, professional development training, and more. All staff members are valued for their contributions toward creating a high-quality experience for visitors, and their work allows BADM to achieve its mission.
Each employee has the opportunity to make a unique impact on more than 350,000 museum visitors each year on-site, online, and many more in the community through BADM’s research-backed school and community programs.