Wheels turning on Haliburton Children’s Museum

By Angelica Ingram

Oct. 4 2016

Things are moving forward with the creation of Haliburton’s first museum dedicated solely to children.

Earlier this year Community Living Central Highlands was the recipient of a $29700 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to go towards creating a plan for children’s space at the former Victoria Street School.

While the plan is still in its early stages those behind the project are excited for the possibilities that lay ahead.

Haliburton consultant Leora Berman was instrumental in writing the proposal that led to the grant and is acting as a community liaison for the project.

Berman says it has long been a dream of hers to bring a children’s museum to Haliburton as she herself benefited greatly from one in her home community of Hamilton.

The hope is to turn some of the indoor and outdoor space at the former school which is now home to Community Living and other organizations into a creative interactive learning place for children.

“I did an analysis on where the gaps are in terms of services and programming and kids always seem to fall through the cracks here” said Berman.

The Trillium grant is going towards a feasibility and operations plan for the museum which will be done by Museum Planning Partners a consultancy organization specifically focused on museums.

Two of the consultants Hugh Spencer and Linda Pearcey have a background specifically in children’s museums.

The goal is to develop an interactive type of learning centre that is sustainable and fits the needs of the community said Berman.

“Kids’ museums build confidence for kids and they help with parenting skills they help with mental health and kids don’t always learn the way a school teaches” she said. “Kids’ museums are learning through self-exploration.”

Connections have already been made with the Dysart recreation committee Point in Time local schools and the Haliburton Highlands Museum said Berman.

“There’s a lot of excitement about it” she said.

The location is ideal as it is in the heart of the community and will use more space in the building and the green space outside.

Since taking over the former school Community Living executive director Teresa Jordan says the plan has always been to turn the building into a hub.

“When we first purchased the school … the big driving force for the board was about community inclusion” said Jordan. “Not only did they see the potential in having nice space for our activities but they also saw right from the get-go that it was more space than we needed and other community groups could meet and gather and use the space thereby getting us connected to the community.”

Through many discussions and brainstorming sessions staff thought about how best the building could be used.

“We thought the building had two strengths highly conducive to kids activities and the other thing we just love and still see potential in is the kitchen” said Jordan. “So we were trying to think about how could we build on those two strengths.”

The idea of low-cost activities for children came up starting with using the community gardens and perhaps a classroom.

The plan is to have interactive displays that can be changed up on a regular basis and could include themes such as maple syrup.

“There’s a children’s museum association in North America so you can change and trade exhibitions with other kids museums” said Berman.

Unlike traditional museums a kids’ museum is not guided but includes play-based learning.

The museum will be geared for children up to age 15.

The essence of the Trillium grant which was a seed grant is to try to put together the pieces on the plan for the museum.

Jordan is hoping many partners come on board and has received positive feedback thus far.

To learn more about the plans for the museum and to take the survey visit www.haliburtonchildren.ca. Results will be summarized by Oct. 19 2016.