News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS Children will get a chance to pick Ôstrawberries' in addition to other hands-on activities as part of the Cracker Crops and Cows exhibit at the Chrildren's Museum of the Highlands.
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published: Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Children's Museum of the Highlands unveils new exhibit on 22nd anniversary
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- A new attraction will be the talk of the town, or at least for the kids in town, once they visit the Children's Museum of the Highlands. The museum is gearing up for an exciting new year with the unveiling of it' newest exhibit in conjunction with celebrating it's 22nd year anniversary today.
Founder of the museum Linda Crowder has been working diligently over the past month to keep the newest addition to the museum under wraps. After weeks of prepping and fine tuning, Crowder is now ready to show it off; the Cracker Crops and Cows exhibit is ready for guests to enjoy.
The Cracker Crops and Cows exhibit has been a project Crowder has wanted to do for many years. After the opening of two exhibits that showcase the local communities biggest cultural aspects, Crowder has added the third piece to the puzzle.
"I've had this in my head for about 15 years," Crowder said. "I wanted to show the three big parts of the Heartland culture when I first started this museum. I've had the citrus exhibit, we have the race car exhibit; all that was missing was agriculture."
The Cracker Crops and Cows exhibit central element is an interactive electronic cow used to teach children the many parts of Heartland agriculture. Throughout the exhibit, children can learn the many sides to agriculture. A strawberry station, chicken, egg gathering, produce cultivation and much more are all a part of the new exhibit.
Getting the last part of the puzzle wasn't an easy task however. Crowder has been working on less than a shoestring budget for quite some time. With the economy in such a declined state, it has been even more difficult for Crowder to get needed funding for the improvement and upkeep of the museum.
Crowder thought of different versions of the new exhibit to save on some of the expense.
"I thought at first that I'd do everything except for the cow; I just couldn't afford the total price. The cow alone was $7,500, the shipping was $1,200 and I just couldn't get that last bit," Crowder said.
Luckily, the New Hampshire-based company that makes the electronic cow had a convention to attend in Orlando and was able to waive the shipping fee and allowed Crowder to pick up the device herself. Crowder was thrilled to save money on shipping.
"For 22 years, I've wanted to provide a place where kids can learn and play and interact, but now the funding to keep this going is just about nonexistent," Crowder said. "It's very frustrating, but I keep going. The smiles on the kids faces when they are here keeps me going."
Between the many visitors, summer camps, and fundraisers, the Children's Museum of the Highlands manages to stay afloat. Crowder also finds unique ways to incorporate local businesses, families and individuals into the museum for a small costs.
"For this exhibit we have the Cracker House wall panels that people are able to purchase. Their names will be engraved on the boarding of the house for everyone to see," Crowder said.
The boarding panels are on sale for $500 each and have a 15-letter limit. The money raised through the Cracker House panels will be used in the upkeep of the museum.
With nearly 30 exhibits and interactive stations, the Children's Museum is a great place for kids and adults to visit. It is the only one of its kind throughout the Heartland and has visitors from elementary schools in six counties between the months of January and June each year.
"I never dreamed we'd have over 23,000 visitors each year. That's big; there's so many people who enjoy being here and coming here ... 22 years ago I wanted to do an interactive learning place for kids. I wanted to highlight the culture of the Heartland and Central Florida and with this last piece of the puzzle I'm doing that. I'm very excited about this," Crowder said.
The Cracker Crops and Cows exhibit will open to the public on Wednesday. On that day, the Children's Museum will also celebrate its 22nd year anniversary. The Children's Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; the museum is closed Sunday and Monday.
Admission price is $4 per person and $2 per person on Thursdays after 5 p.m. For more information, to donate or to purchase a Cracker House panel, contact Crowder at 385-5437.
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