LOGAN – The Hocking Hills Children’s Museum, at 78 and 82 West Main St. in Logan, is making rapid progress in its construction.
Its middle wall in the Weghorst building is coming down, and the floor is outlined into zones for play areas.
Though the museum is not set to open until next spring, it is currently looking for three more local businesses to sponsor “storefronts” in its “Downtown” play area.
The “Downtown” play area will mirror downtown Logan, its local organizations and businesses. It will be an area for dramatic play, where children play pretend with model storefronts; visiting the doctor, shopping and scooping ice cream, Kristen Stimmel, chair of the Hocking Hills Children’s Museum, said.
Hocking Valley Community Hospital will have a storefront, as well as Weaver’s Market & Deli. The storefronts will be named after and reflect respective sponsors.
Treehouse Treats and Treasures, at 12793 state Route 664, a locally owned ice cream, souvenir and gift shop, will also have a “Downtown” storefront because it wanted to contribute to the museum in a tangible way, Valerie Fox, owner of Treehouse Treats, said in a message.
“The Hocking Hills Children’s Museum is bringing a great new experience to community members and visitors,” Fox said in the message. “They have a solid plan of action; detailed plans for bringing the museum to life... The ice cream shop in (the) ‘Downtown’ play area was a perfect fit, since we are an ice cream shop — and who doesn’t love ice cream?”
There are three additional spots for storefronts, still waiting for sponsors, with suggested themes: a pizza parlor, a beauty/barber shop and a mechanic’s shop. Businesses that sponsor a storefront receive naming rights to the play area.
Children’s museums are not traditional museums, Stimmel said. Children’s museums focus on interactive, educational play; the exhibitions are meant to be touched, moved and stimulating for kids, she explained.
“There’s nothing (that will be in) here that (kids) will not be able to have their hands on,” Stimmel said. “It’s a space for children.”
The museum will also have five other play areas; “The Cave,” which will be a dark, nocturnal-themed area; “The Creek Bed,” which will be a water and sensory play area with a replica of Old Man’s Cave; “The Birdsong Barn,” a music and special guest area; “The Forest,” which will have simple machines, like pulleys and scales; and “The Rainbow Room,” which will be an area for art.
On the nonprofit museum team are three long-time Logan-Hocking preschool teachers and moms: Stimmel, chair, Rachel Kallimanis, chair elect, and Georgia Johnson, secretary. John Johnson, a financial case manager, father of two and museum treasurer, is also on the team.
Planning of the museum began in July 2019, Kallimanis said.
“We are all early childhood educators,” Stimmel said. “Young children are what our passion is, where our heart lies. Probably about five years ago, I (thought) it’d just be a really nice thing for our community. And especially for younger children, there just isn’t a whole lot to do if you’re looking for an afternoon activity or weekend activities.”
The coronavirus pandemic caused delays in construction, Stimmel said. The children’s museum hopes to have its grand opening by spring 2022. It will aim toward children aged birth through 10, Stimmel said.
It is important to Stimmel, Kallimanis and Johnson that the museum reflect the uniqueness of the Hocking Hills region, from its local businesses to its native flora and fauna.
“We really are passionate about making it seem like a natural environment,” Stimmel said. “So the ceilings, we’re hoping to paint blue like the sky, and I think we’re all kind of thinking of... a lot of greenery.”
Parts of the museum may even have a grass-like carpeting, Stimmel said. “We really want it to kind of feel like you’re inside, but you’re outside.”
Another part of why the nature-inspired feel of the museum is important is because it is educational, Stimmel said.
“You’d be surprised how many children grow up here, in the heart of the Hocking Hills, and never visit,” Stimmel said. “Maybe they don’t have access to go hike with their family, but they can come (to the children’s museum) and see a replica of Old Man’s Cave, and get some of that education.”
The museum will also be wheelchair-accessible and have two parking lots, Stimmel said. A goal of the museum was to be accessible, especially within downtown Logan.
The museum will be constructed with an open sight line so parents and guardians can watch their children play anywhere within the museum, too.
More information can be found on the museum and its construction at www.hhchildrensmuseum.com.