People Fund helps build the language of learning

Say '¡Hola!' to language lessons at Sandcastles Children's Museum

Sometimes the best inventions and ideas grow out of our everyday experiences.That’s exactly how the ¡Hola! Speaking Spanish program at the Sandcastles Children’s Museum in Ludington was born.

In October of 2022, Sandcastle’s Children’s Museum received a $5,000 grant from Great Lakes Energy’s People Fund that paid for much of the costs for the new program.

Kristin Korendyke, who was the museum’s founding board president until 2012 when she became the executive director, came up with the idea from experiences
in her personal life.

Kristin said the idea for the “¡Hola!” program came from watching two family members’ efforts to learn Spanish. She explained that when her teenage daughter struggled to learn Spanish in school, she enlisted some tutoring help from a couple from El Salvador Kristin knows through the museum, Miguel and Ana Quinteros. Around the same time, she saw her niece, who was then 3, learn Spanish through programming at her daycare. She noted that for her niece, the process seemed much easier and more relaxed because she was also still learning English.

“I was making these observations about how, for a teenager, there might be more embarrassment about not saying something right. But for a 3-year-old, they’re still learning English. So, mispronouncing and experimentation is no big deal,” Kristin said. “So, I thought we’ve got to do some sort of introduction to Spanish while we have these really young children here. They are here to play, but at that age, play is learning.”

Armed with that inspiration, she set out to develop a program that integrates a Spanish teaching experience into the museum’s many exhibits and programs. The primary element of the ¡Hola! program is 10 small speakers positioned throughout the building. At the press of a button, each speaker will play a recording of a person speaking a Spanish phrase that is then repeated in English. The recording on each speaker is related to the exhibit where the speaker is located. For example, the speaker located in the art exhibit area might have a recording that says, “¿Cuál es tu color favorito? … What is your favorite color?” Signs placed next to each speaker have the printed transcript of the phrase recorded on the speaker. The program also includes placing Spanish labels on items throughout the museum. Staff members have also been trained with
various responses to Spanish phrases, which Kristin said is aimed at eventually
setting up dialogues.

Kristin also noted that the speaker system is very flexible. The recordings can be changed periodically so they can be integrated with different exhibits. This allows visitors to be exposed to many different sets of phrases over time. Miguel, who lent his voice to the original recordings has agreed to record more content for the speakers as needed.

The final piece of the program is a First Saturday Spanish Story Time that takes place on the first Saturday of each month. For these events, Ana has agreed to come to the museum to read stories in Spanish and lead fun activities that celebrate Hispanic culture.

Inspiración inesperada (Unexpected inspiration)

Kristin said an unexpected additional benefit to the program cropped up while
the program was being developed. She explained as she was doing research for the ¡Hola! Program, she reached out to Angie Taylor of Scottville who works extensively with area Spanish-speaking migrant populations.

“She was so excited about our program which gave me a whole new way of looking at it,” Kristin said. “Most of the people who come to the museum are English speakers, but Angie sees Spanish speakers who need to learn English. It illustrates how wonderfully reversible this program is.”

Based on this exchange, Angie has agreed to donate books to the museum’s program, and in return, Kristin is providing passes to the museum to encourage migrant families to come take advantage of the program to help them learn English.

Mucho más (Much more)

Just like the rest of the Sandcastle’s Children’s Museum, the ¡Hola! Program is
built around the idea that children learn best by experiencing things through play. The museum has 26 exhibits that range from a baby nursery to 3D printing. Some exhibits focus on creativity, theater, and art while others focus on life skills and science. Much like the ¡Hola! program, some of the exhibits grew out of local concerns. One example is a water safety exhibit that demonstrates how waves work and the importance of wearing life jackets. Kristin said that the exhibit, which was developed in the wake of several drownings that took place in nearby Lake Michigan, is another example of an exhibit that will use “¡Hola!” program speakers to encourage children to “Usa tu chaleco salvavidas.” (Wear your life jacket.)

Kristen said Sandcastles Children’s Museum also tries to encourage parents to take part in the exhibits and activities with their children. The museum is geared toward children roughly ages 2-10 but also offers a volunteer program for teens.

The Sandcastles Children’s Museum has benefitted from several People Fund Grants over the years, which Kristin said has made a big difference for the organization.

“GLE’s People Fund has been awesome to us from the get-go. We’ve really
appreciated that partnership. It’s allowed us to create a lot of very cool exhibits and programs.”

Sandcastle’s Children’s Museum is located at 129 East Ludington Ave., in Ludington. For information about programming, exhibits, hours, how to donate to the organization, and much more, visit,

You can learn more about the ¡Hola! exhibit by clicking here.

People Fund at work

The grant for Sandcastles Children’s Museum is just one of the more than $4.5 million in People Fund grants that have been awarded since the program’s inception in 1999. These grants are funded through the generosity of GLE members who agree to have their electric bills rounded up to the next whole dollar each month. That money is pooled with contributions from other participating members to provide grants that truly make a difference in the communities GLE serves. To learn more about the People Fund, including a list of recent grant recipients and information on how to enroll in the program or apply for a grant, visit

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17 days ago

What a great way to utilize this program for another great project. Win win as far as I’m concerned. Great job GLE and kudos to you Sandcastles Children’s Museum. Marvelous/maravilloso

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