Children's Museum unveils master plan

Bridges, northern lights, subterranean spaces will be among the highlights of the new Children's Museum in Saskatoon, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

Museum will feature everything from northern lights and bridges to arts and science.

Children play at the unveiling of plans for the Children's Discovery Museum in the soon-to-be former Mendel Art Gallery building. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Bridges, northern lights, and subterranean spaces are just some of the highlights of the new Children's Museum in Saskatoon, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

Dave Hunchak, president of the Children's Discovery Museum, unveiled the master plan this morning.

"It's education disguised as play," Hunchak explained. "When the museum designers do this work, they look at 'well what are kids going to be learning here?' Is it problem-solving, is it group work, is it communication, is it spacial awareness? Is it that kind of thing? So then the kids go in there and they have great fun exploring these things for hours and they learn stuff as they go."

The museum, which is geared to children up to the age of 12, will be housed in the Mendel Art Gallery. 

The plan features elements of three proposals prepared by a consultant, after consultations with the public, Hunchak said.

Visitors will encounter the northern lights feature, which Hunchak describes as a "wow factor" as soon as they enter the museum. From there, they can proceed through nine different exhibits. 

Toon Town is a role-playing area where children can pretend they're "a banker or a grocery store, or running a pizza shop." There will be space for children do to dramatic performances, film a video. 

The tots area features tiny bridges where little ones learn "balance and texture and tactile sensations."

In the media zone, children may scan an image "and it gets up on the screen, and it's animated and interacts with other ones."

There's also a climbing area with "ball rolls and launching of things."

In the basement, there will be art spaces. The subterranea will focus on mining and geology, gophers and paleontology.

Construction of  the $10 million museum is scheduled to begin next year, after the art gallery moves into the Remai Modern.

So far, the project has raised less than one-tenth of that sum, enough to proceed to detailed design work over the coming year.

Hunchak hopes to raise the rest through donations, with a public campaign to start in the fall.

He also hopes to cover about half of the annual operating budget of $1.2 million through grants and donations, with the remainder coming from admission fees and rentals. 

Admission will remain $7 per person.

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