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Children's museum

Mar 29, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Planners of such a facility in Riverton have a fine idea

A very worthwhile idea is encompassed in Riverton by the planning for a museum-style facility aimed at children. It takes an old idea and gives it a new twist.

The notion of a "youth center," to use a very broad term, has been tossed around in Riverton for decades, and tried more than once. But nothing has ever stuck for long. Most of those past efforts have been based on the idea of entertainment-style recreation -- pool tables, pinball, video games. Inevitably, problems with supervision and undesirable activity doomed these projects.

This new approach is a bit different, based more on information and education than on competition and entertainment, and would bring a strong group activity element to the facility's programming as well.

It skews a bit younger than the earlier efforts, which have tended to target teen users. That's not to say teens couldn't benefit form this new idea, but it doesn't appear to be a teen-oriented entity first and foremost.

Potential benefits are many across a variety of cultural, educational and entertainment platforms. In addition to original and specific offerings from the new children's museum itself, valuable partnerships with public schools also could be formed, as they could with R Recreation and other entities offering programming for children.

Planning for sustainability will be critical. Well-meaning enterprises that rise because of one or two parents wanting to engage their children tend to falter once those family situations evolve.

The organizers of the children's museum concept have been careful and deliberate in their early work. This is not an idea that is being rushed into production. That's a good way to go about it, increasing the likelihood that it can survive beyond the initial burst of enthusiasm and novelty.

Public projects for the benefit of children don't stop there. They work to the benefit of the entire community through fostering a sense of place, a sense of belonging, and a sense of participation in public life.

Every community is better for having such a program and facility.

There are examples of successful children's museums in other communities across our state and region. With care, thought, foresight and patience, Riverton can be added to that list of success stories -- and ought to be.

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