â Plans for interactive children's museum progress with help from state grantPLATTSBURGH — Getting kids to visit a museum can be like pulling teeth.It may even be harder — at least tooth-pulling has the promise of a cash payout from the tooth fairy; all a visit to a museum can promise is cultural enrichment. Yech.Soon, however, Plattsburgh could have a museum that kids will be clamoring to visit.Kid's Station, a proposed children's museum to be created adjacent to the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, is one giant step closer to fruition, thanks to a recent $400,000 state grant."It all started in motion about three years ago," said Joanne Vaccaro, head of the Kid's Station Committee. "It was just myself and a bunch of friends who had kids. We'd visit children's museums and wonder why we didn't have something like that. It's a long way to any kid's museum."
Indeed, the North Country is bereft of permanent, full-time children's museums. Burlington doesn't have one, either. Nor does Montreal. The closest ones are in Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs. Kid's Station would fill a clear void."The idea is to kind of have a museum campus out here, with the Transportation Museum, the Clinton County Historical Museum ... which is great, but what is there for the kids? More people would be interested in the whole campus if there was a kids museum, too. I know I would."It's hard for little kids to go somewhere and not touch anything. You take a child to a museum and spend two hours telling him, 'Don't touch, don't touch' ... that's not fun for anybody."One of the members said we should have signs all around (Kid's Station) saying, 'Please touch; we'd like you to touch as much as possible.' That's how kids learn; it's very tactile."Kid's Station will be aimed at children from preschool age through grade 3 and should be highly interactive. Located in the historic 1890 cavalry stables building, it will follow a "Land, Air and Water" theme.Preliminary plans have already been drawn up by Adirondack Scenic of Argyle.
"They've done stuff for Universal Studios, the Met ... the Adirondack Museum."The blueprints call for new facades on the transportation and children's museums, with the space between the two filled by an outdoor theater, a picnic gazebo and miniature roadways for children.Inside Kid's Station will be a climbing area, with tunnels and cargo nets and a bridge, and a number of permanent exhibits.There will be a flight simulator, wall puzzles and a large water table, enabling kids to float boats down simulated waterways. Organizers also hope to have a scaled-down version of the ship Saratoga and a fire engine — or at least part of a fire engine."We'll also have some recording equipment, and kids can pretend that they're broadcasting," said Vaccaro."We went to a lot of children's museums and brought back a lot of ideas."I wouldn't say we have all the activities planned out, but we've got quite a few. The idea is to have some static things but also some rotating exhibits to keep things fresh."
The building that will house the Kid's Station has a balcony, but work on the second floor isn't immediately planned."It's unlikely we can get that done in the first stage ... $400,000 doesn't go as far as it used to."Students at CV-TEC have done some preliminary work on Kid's Station, but Vaccaro hopes for major refurbishing to start in the fall, with the museum opening as early as next spring.Until then, the Kid's Station Committee will concentrate on fundraising.As part of the $400,000 grant (actually an $800,000 grant shared with the Transportation Museum), the organizers have to raise $200,000 in matching funds.Part of that will come from the organization's second-annual Great Gatsby Gala, a period celebration featuring fine food, dancing and a stage show, set at the Transportation Museum on April 21.
"It takes several months of planning to pull it off," said Vaccaro. "But we raised $6,000, $7,000 last year."Kids shouldn't worry though. The Great Gatsby won't be part of Kid's Station. Nope. No cultural enrichment to see here. It's just going to be fun. Promise.