WILTON — Fourth-graders at Academy Hill School have pledged funds to the Western Maine Play Museum, an emerging children’s museum in Wilton.

The students decided they wanted to give the profits from their annual Business/Education Partnership with Hannaford Brothers to the museum.

For the past 25 years, Brenda Laverdiere’s fourth-grade students have been involved in this yearlong interactive experience. This year, teacher Morgan Turner is also helping.

The children “get a taste of real life as they learn about jobs, fill out real job applications, write a personal narrative for a job interview and are interviewed for a job,” Laverdiere said.

At the end of this introductory process, children work at Hannaford under the close supervision of a department manager or associate. 

“Once the children understand the basics of marketing, they are challenged to create, market and sell their own products or services,” she said. “All profits are donated to a charity. This year, students have chosen to donate their profits to the Western Maine Play Museum, and they are very excited to have this opportunity.  They want to be a part of the museum’s history.” 

In years past, the children have supported many area charities and have raised significant amounts of money each year. 

Lewis and Elaine Fitzgerald, board members of the Western Maine Play Museum, recently spoke to the children about the ongoing plans for the museum. If their donation exceeds $1,000, they will be listed among the other major donors on a permanent display inside the museum.

The museum’s interior design plan calls for several themed rooms, such as a nature room for rotating exhibits in topics such as biology and agriculture; a room dedicated to forts and other constructions using a variety of building materials; a smart room, featuring a permanent exhibit using interactive technology; a kitchen which will be used for food labs next to a gathering room for special events like birthday parties.

Also in the plans is a play village, containing a two-story play space complete with a grocery store, a doctor’s office, a diner and other Main Street attractions.

A magnet room, an infant and toddler room, a dark room, a train room and an invention room are also part of the plan.

“This is a place meant to ignite a lifelong love of learning in children,” Angela McLeod, president of the museum board of directors, said. “The learning in this building will be completely child-led. They will follow their own interests and curiosity, rather than following a schedule or an agenda. Our exhibits will be very open-ended, meaning that children bring their own imagination, personality and interests, and then generate their own learning at their own pace.”

Also included will be regular programming, such as story time and “kitchen science” activities, with a regular after-school program and school vacation day camps, which will complement the learning already available for kids and help to keep the museum sustainable.

The Western Maine Play Museum hopes to open in 2015. It is a registered nonprofit that incorporated in November 2013 and is led by a 13-member board of directors.

Community members interested in supporting this project should visit the museum’s website for donation options or email them at [email protected] Project updates can be found at www.facebook.com/WesternMainePlayMuseum and on their website, www.westernmaineplay.org.


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