by columnist Madeline Karp

Working for a children’s museum, I am all about supporting the hopes and dreams of young children. Kids tell me them all the time.

I hear dreams of being an astronaut, a firefighter, a doctor, a professional athlete. I hear dreams about being able to read chapter books or tying shoes without help, and dreams of one day being tall enough to ride the museum’s carousel without an adult. I hear it all.

Some of them are silly, some of them are sincere, and some of them are downright outlandish. The thing is, I think it’s so important to support kids’ dreams, rather than quash them no matter what. So what if you can’t grow up to be a Tooth Fairy? It’s about having aspirations, goals to work for and finding ways to make seemingly impossible things come true.

So it really hit home for me when I heard what the Denver Museum of Nature and Science did for one little dreamer.

Eli Navant, 9, dreams of being a paleontologist and museum curator – so much so that when a position for a chief curator opened at the Denver Museum last November, he decided to apply. With the help of his third grade teacher and his parents, he sent in a handwritten cover letter and set of references that included Robert Bakker, an expert paleontologist whom Eli met briefly at one of the museum’s in-house mini-dig programs.

It would have been easy for the curatorial staff to ignore this little boy’s dream, but instead, they made him an honorary “Curator for the Day.” Clearly the museum’s exhibits and programming had made a lasting impression on this little boy, and that was something to be rewarded and shared.

This story is inspiring – both for children and museum professionals.

Kids: You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Museum Professionals: You can connect with your audience in new and innovative ways. You can support a child’s dream, and make the museum a place of welcome and community, sometimes in unexpected ways.

To see the heartwarming CBS Evening News segment on Eli and the Denver Museum, click here. (Apologies for the ad beforehand.)

I’ve had a lot of kids ask me how to get a job like mine at the Please Touch Museum. I used to tell them they had to wait until they were 18 to apply. But now I think I may just tell them to pick up an application at the admissions desk.  Because why not? Let’s support their dreams.