Retired physician and volunteers have built a museum for children (of all ages)

Although it's called the Newburg Children's Museum of Natural History and its after-school activities and Saturday programs are designed to help children understand nature, there's plenty to keep an adult occupied for hours, too.

"You are holding something in your hand that is 370 million years old," Elizabeth te Groen, president and curator of the museum, said to a participant during the grand opening of the museum Saturday.

What that person was holding was a fossil from an era before dinosaurs.

That was just one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of items displayed in the rooms of one of Newburg's historic buildings.

"My desire is to expand the horizons of the children," said te Groen, a retired emergency room physician and world-traveling cancer researcher from South Africa who lives up the road in Doolittle.

If a child—or parent—doesn't have his or her horizons expanded by a visit to the Newburg Children's Museum of Natural History, he or she just isn't paying any attention, for there's so much to look at, study, read, touch and do (on activity days, especially).

For instance, on the ground floor is the Rocks and Fossils Room, loaded with examples of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, plus minerals, fossils of ancient creatures and replicas of dinosaurs and their bones.

"Look at this. This is Mozarkite," te Groen says, holding up a colorful mineral. "It's beautiful, and you only find it in Missouri."

There are trilobites and crinoids, or at least the fossils of those ancient creatures, also on display.

Across the hall is the Sea Room, filled with shells.

Children (and adults) can see how pearls are formed and pearl buttons were manufactured, why sharks are so dangerous (they have a lot of teeth) and what "sea silk" is.

Upstairs is the Ethnic Room, in which are displayed many artifacts te Groen collected during her trips around Africa and to Asia, as well as South America and the Caribbean.

For instance, displayed are African "love letters," beadwork that carried messages based on color.

She has little bows and arrows on display, telling a story that when a tribesman saw a woman he liked, he would shoot a little arrow, more like a small dart, into the buttocks of the woman. If she didn't want the man, she would pull the dart out and throw it away. If she wanted him, she would leave it in.

"Where do you think the story of Cupid began?" te Groen said.

She also has a display showing how African tribesmen used ostrich eggs as ways to store water — egg canteens, in other words.

"I don't know why we call these people primitive," she said. "I don't know that we'd be as clever as they are."

Also upstairs is the Science Room, with many hands-on learning activities.

Then there's the Sky Room, with photos and models of planets, the Milky Way galaxy and the universe. Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope hang on the wall.

The River Room includes a puppet theater and it's the home of the Stream Team that annually works on waterway cleanup.

Te Groen has been working on ways to help children and young people in Newburg for many years. She and her husband, also a retired physician, moved to Doolittle in 1984, to take care of a house.

"My children bought a place in Doolittle while in the military. When we retired, they wanted us to move here to look after it for awhile," she said. "That was 30 years ago. I'm still looking after it."

Te Groen and her husband, Lutherus, sailed for three years.

"He was a Dutchman, and a Dutchman has to sail," she said. They sailed from South Africa to South America and up the coast.

In Brazil, Lutherus picked up a parasite from food. For several years, his health failed and he passed away.

Meanwhile, through her involvement with the Newburg United Methodist Church, Elizabeth worked on ways to reach out to the community's children.

She was also a member of the Newburg Revitalization Committee Program Group and asked to start something for children. They at first offered her a room in the Houston House. Then, they heard what she wanted to do and decided more than one room was needed.

"They let me use this building," she said of the rooming house annex behind the Houston House proper.

It wasn't in show-worthy condition.

"So I got some chaps from Fort Leonard Wood who came to fix the walls and paint. That was in May 2007. By May 2008 we were open."

The museum is open Tuesdays and Saturdays with an after-school program on Thursdays.

"We'd be open more if we had enough volunteers," she said.

The museum is reaching many children from ages 6-12, she said, but she's still looking for an activity to reach the older youngsters who aren't interested in the museum because "the hormones have kicked in," she said.

R.D. Hohenfeldt covers city council, school board, planning and zoning commission and the hospital board for The Rolla Daily News. He also blogs at www.TheOzarks and at

About the Newburg Children’s Museum

The Newburg Children’s Museum is a natural history museum located in downtown Newburg, Mo.

In May 2007 the Newburg Revitalization Committee Program Group turned over the annex of the Houston House to be used as a museum.

That building dates back to 1884 when the Houston House was built to serve as a hotel and restaurant to give railway workers a place to eat, sleep and relax between shifts.

Newburg was chosen by the railroad company to serve as the site of a roundhouse and for repairs and maintenance. The site of the original roundhouse is still visible near the Little Piney River.

Newburg Children’s Museum
31 Water Street
Newburg, MO 65550-9130

Hours open: Tuesday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

After school program: Thursday, 3:30-5 p.m.

Questions? Contact Elizabeth te Groen 573-762-3077

Donations accepted.

Directions: Take exit 179 off Interstate 44 at Doolittle. Proceed to Main Street in Newburg. Turn left into Water Street.

Newburg Children’s Museum is a non-profit organization. No entry fees are charged.
Tours are available on other days and times by request. Call Elizabeth at 573-762-3077 or Karen at 573-762-2029.

Have a plate of biscuits and gravy to help Newburg Children’s Museum

A Biscuits and Gravy Fundraiser will be held from 7:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 16, at Blues Too restaurant in downtown Newburg.

Money raised at the breakfast will go to the Newburg Children’s Museum of Natural History.

That’s the Saturday of the St. Pat’s Parade in Rolla, an event many families with children like to attend to see the intricate floats designed by the Missouri S&T students.

Those families, and anyone else hungry for biscuits and gravy, are invited to attend and help the museum raise additional money for its operation.

Cost will be just $5 per person ($2.50 for children ages 2-10 and free for those under 2).

Fresh doughnuts will be available from Koye Donuts and More.

For more information, contact Elizabeth te Groen, museum president, at 573-762-3077.

Here is the calendar of events and activities for the rest of 2013:

May 11: Children’s Festival with fun, music, games, museum tours and more, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the museum and the museum courtyard.

June 8: Newburg Day, parade and museum programs.

July 6: Callithump before the fireworks.

Aug, 10: Ice cream social.

Sept. 14: Appreciation Dinner at 6 p.m. for Friends of the Museum.

Sept. 28: Celebration of Nations.

Nov. 16: Christmas craft bazaar fundraiser.

Dec. 7: Christmas parade, museum float.

Dec. 14: Crafts at the museum.

After-school program held Thursdays

Here is the schedule of the Thursday after-school program for the Newburg Children’s Museum for the remainder of the school year.

Classes start at approximately 3:30 p.m. and conclude at 5 p.m.

Feb. 28: Learn to write your name using Egyptian hieroglyphs. Look at writing from other cultures (pictographs, etc.).

March 7: Use objects of nature to create art. Draw an object of nature.

March 21: Paint an object of nature (tree).

March 28: Batik on eggs and hang on a tree.

April 4: Plant walk. Collect plants. Identify plants and learn how useful they are in our civilization.

April 11: Learn about compost worms.

April 18: Walk in a park, collect insects.

April 25: Draw objects from nature outside. Draw what you see.

May 2: Understanding flowers. Label flower parts, using a model.

May 9: Draw and paint flowers (choose from three).