As phase one of the Coastal Heritage Society’s Savannah Children’s Museum opens its doors June 9, we go behind the scenes with the locals who are making it possible.
Photography by Beau Kester
Official job: Co-owner of Savannah Hardscapes
Unofficial job: Coastal Heritage Society board member and donor
Favorite kids: Cate, 15; Bella, 11; and Alex, 8
Background: Native Savannahian, worked on projects with Savannah Development and Renewal Authority
Childhood toy of choice: Water skis and mini bike
Favorite kind of mess: My son’s 10,000 Legos spread across the floor
Big idea: It’s not my idea, but I’m very supportive of the use of the foundation ruins as the focal point for Exploration Station.
I love kids for their…potential.
This project has taught me…patience and the importance of broad-based creative input.
My inner child wants to…play in the structural remains of the former carpentry building that’s now Exploration Station. It feels as if it’s a place where kids used to “explore”—often without permission.
Savannah needs this museum because…from a tourism standpoint, study after study has called for a significant “family” attraction. Those of us who fondly remember the Savannah Science Museum on Paulsen Street will be amazed at the scope and depth of the Savannah Children’s Museum.
Leithland Walker, AKA “Walker”
Official job: Coastal Heritage Society Preservation Team welder and metal fabricator
Unofficial jobs: Savannah Children’s Museum’s resident songwriter, musician and structural painter
Favorite kids: Ivan Walker Jr., 34, and Losaleni Walker, 36
Background: Originally from Jamaica, worked as a metal fabricator on Tybee Island
Childhood toy of choice: Marbles. I also really enjoyed table tennis.
Favorite kind of mess: I love gardening and getting my hands in the messy soil. I love watching something I plant from a seed grow and bear fruit.
Big idea: I wrote a theme song for the museum titled “The Trees and the Children,” which has a Jamaican rhythm.
This project has taught me … cooperation. I would say there is a highly cooperative spirit among all the workers. I am loving being here with them.
I love kids for their … adaptability. They welcome new things and they can grasp positive ideas.
My inner child wants to … play in the mist systems we installed to keep the children cool. As a Pisces, I gravitate toward water elements.
I hope the museum will … make adults and kids feel welcome and accommodated.
Patricia Guerrero Knight
Official job: Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Coastal Heritage Society
Unofficial jobs: Interactive museum consultant, Spanish language interpreter, knitting teacher, Girl Scout troop leader and classroom mom
Favorite kids (locally): Catie Knight, 9; Bella Knight, 7; Ruben Guerrero, 12; and Angelina Guerrero, 6
Background: Worked five years in business development and intellectual property packaging at one of the world’s largest and more established children’s museums in Northern California
Favorite kind of mess: Sand. I love going to the beach. Sand in my house does not bother me one bit.
Childhood toy of choice: I LOVED my 1982 banana-seat bicycle. It was the fastest on the street, and I would race and beat all the boys. My daughter, Catie, has inherited it and, thanks to a good friend who restored it, Catie is now seen racing around Wilmington Island.
Big idea: The one I’m most passionate about is infusing Gullah-Geechee elements into Exploration Station. It’s a rich part of Savannah’s culture that will add that unique regional element to this space.
This project has taught me … that family time is crucial. The irony of building this amazing space is that we have our hearts focused on the children in and around Savannah, working long hours away from our own. My boss, Scott Smith, reminds me to constantly reevaluate my schedule and make time for my family. Scott is a good man and a great boss.
I love kids for their … ability to find humor in any moment and their random imaginative play.
Official job: Director of Children’s Education for Coastal Heritage Society
Unofficial jobs: Mommy, wife, goddess of creativity, taxi service, play expert and all-around goofball
Favorite kids: Vinnie, 4. His pediatrician calls him “The Gangster Baby.”
Background: Former classroom teacher and educational programming entrepreneur
Childhood toy of choice: Kids need a special space to call their own. The basement was mine. I transformed that space into every magical environment you could imagine.
Favorite kind of mess: If I have to pick just one, I choose shaving cream. It’s so much fun to play with!
Big idea: A portable Zen garden that can offer a calming experience for children (and adults) who need to focus and create.
This project has taught me … that our team can make any crazy idea come to life. Who would have ever thought that the ruins of an old railroad building could become a children’s museum?
Savannah needs this museum because … it will offer an educational resource that is normally reserved for the larger cities. The city’s list of family-friendly activities is only getting longer, and we’re excited to be a part of this important movement.
The beauty of Exploration Station is that you don’t have to be a kid to engage. Adults are encouraged to play and interact as much as their children here.
Official job: Curator of Buildings for Coastal Heritage Society
Unofficial job: Co-founder of CHS Construction and Preservation, a nonprofit historic preservation construction and consulting company
Favorite kids: Ty Joseph Dohrman, 7, and Van Landers Dohrman, 9. My sons are my two best children’s museum consultants. We have been to at least nine children’s museums together, and they know what works and what doesn’t.
Background: Swinging a hammer, playing the trumpet, civil engineering, the Peace Corps, historic preservation, construction management and raising two boys
Childhood toy of choice: My homemade, five-level tree house and go-carts.
Favorite kind of mess: We have a workshop in our garage where the boys and I sometimes make things. I love to have kid’s projects strewn around there with sawdust and paint all over the place.
Big idea: Arches. Exploration Station has 48 arches in it, and I really thought that we should share them with the public. It is unusual to have a children’s space in the ruins of a building but Exploration Station is a really magical place. I love being down there.
This project has taught me … that making good decisions is really hard work. (And) making a gong is fun.
I love kids for their … attention to minute detail and lack of guile.
My inner child wants to … enjoy the slides in The Gangway entrance exhibit and Imagination Playground’s over-sized building blocks.
I hope the museum will … be a great place for children to learn while having a blast and for parents and educators to learn about the value of exploring and inventing.
The Problem Solver
Nora Fleming Lee
Official job: Tricentennial Park Sites Administrator for Coastal Heritage Society
Unofficial jobs: Problem solver, extinguisher of proverbial “fires,” liaison among all departments in the organization, funnel of information, institutional interpreter and community advocate, streamlining operations and customer services to help create memories for guests
Favorite kids: My nieces and nephews—Tyler Linton, 15; Parker Bass, 14; Cameron Bass , 12; and Emily Blackmar, 5—and the Zilligen kids
Background: Savannah native, M.A. in public history from Armstrong Atlantic State University
Favorite kind of mess: The productive kind, which leads to a clean space or finished product.
Childhood toy of choice: My American Girl doll. I had Felicity, the colonial-period and American-Revolution doll. Even as a child, I was a history lover!
Big idea: I’m continually trying to streamline the back-end operations of this new, nontraditional museum within the shell of its historic structure.
This project has taught me … to listen! There are so many brilliant minds at the table, and I am constantly amazed by how many new things I have learned just by keeping my ears and mind open.
I love kids for their … enthusiastic energy for anything new and fun.
Savannah needs this museum because … it encourages our youth to get outdoors by creating an environment that’s interactive, whimsical, developmentally stimulating and—most important—FUN.
More than a dozen interactive exhibits will cover the two-level, open-air Exploration Station, including the twisted Exploration Maze, the dynamic Imagination Playground, the underwater archaeological Great Excavation, the sense-ational Frogtown Gardens and the cozy Storybook Nook.
Sample them all at the Grand Opening of Savannah Children’s Museum Exploration Station.
June 9. 9 a.m.–2 p.m. $7.50 per person. Savannah Children’s Museum Exploration Station, 655 Louisville Road. 651-6823.