WATERVILLE — Bella Loubier, 10, pedaled the Blender Bike, got off and let her little brother, Gabe, 6, take over.

A blender containing banana, frozen strawberries and water attached to the bike’s back fender whirled away as he pedaled, producing an actual smoothie.

“I think it’s very good for a child’s body because they’re getting a workout, and after the workout, they get a nice, healthy smoothie,” Bella said.

She and her brother were on the lawn of the future Children’s Discovery Museum at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 7 Eustis Parkway as part of the museum’s Sneak Peek open house event Thursday evening. Dozens of children and adults were enjoying exhibits and getting updates on the museum’s plans to buy and move to the church building in 2020.

Kids were snapping parts on a colorful Lego board, moving magnet wheels on a steel wall, painting with acrylics on an easel and placing colorful scarves in a wind tunnel and watching them fly out of the top as other children snatched them up.

“All these little pop-up panels we have we call our mobile museum,” said Amarinda Keys, the museum’s executive director. “They’re activity stations that we bring out to special events. It’s our way of bringing children’s programming to this area before our exhibit space opens.”

Penelope Graham, 10, is reflected in concave and convex lenses Thursday during a tour of the Children’s Discovery Museum in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Museum exhibits to be in the future home are now being designed by Field Magnet, of Portland, according to Keys.

The current museum at 171 Capitol St. in Augusta has interactive exhibits and hands-on programs designed to spark children’s curiosity and celebrate learning through play.

In July, the museum started leasing the sanctuary of the Waterville church and a room to be used starting this fall for birthday parties. Keys said information will be released soon about how people may schedule parties.

As children ran around Thursday on the grass and played with the exhibits, Keys said it was exciting to see them, both in and outside of the building.

“The kids are what bring it to life,” she said. “It’s been just an empty room and an empty lawn.”

Rich Bryant, a member of the museum’s board of directors, led a tour of the exhibits, explaining that they enable kids to interact, explore, play and use their imaginations.

Meg Loubier, the museum’s president of the Board of Directors and mother to Bella and Gabe Loubier, was one of the speakers Thursday.

“Our mission is to ignite curiosity and celebrate learning through play,” she said.

She said the museum’s capital campaign is underway and gaining momentum.

Augustus F. Graham, 11, gives a tour of the Children’s Discovery Museum to members of the public Thursday in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Erin Merrill, development director for Educare, an early childhood learning center on Drummond Avenue next to George J. Mitchell School, also spoke. Later, she talked about how excited she and others at Educare are about the museum.

“It’s one of those resources that you dream about being in your community and the fact that it’s up the hill from us — we couldn’t have picked a better location, a better organization, a better leader, in Amarinda. We’re excited to see how we can enrich the lives of children in our communities, and parents.”

Merrill said the church location is accessible and the children at Educare will love learning and exploring there. The children who attend Educare are from six weeks old to kindergarten age.

“It’s exciting to see Waterville really becoming this educational hub, from six weeks through Thomas and Colby colleges and Kennebec Valley Community College,” Merrill said. “It’s exciting to see the community rally around education.”

Kim Nashed and her partner, John Parsons, will offer a series of adult yoga and meditation classes for beginners and all levels of skill at the museum, with the first classes to be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and from 3:45 to 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 9. Parsons said his grandparents helped to build the church many years ago and he and Nashed are very proud to be part of the museum endeavor.

Augustus F. Graham, 11, gives a tour of the Children’s Discovery Museum to members of the public Thursday in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Christa Johnson, director of Snow Pond Center for the Arts, which has been in existence 83 years, also will offer music lessons for people of all ages starting this fall.

Keys recalled seeing the museum for the first time in 2012 and falling in love with the concept before being hired there. She had a vision for what it could be in the future, with a larger space and more offerings.

“It was a magical little place, and still is,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bella Loubier led a tour of the inside of the church building where the sanctuary has been cleared out in preparation for museum exhibits. Looking at plans for the museum, she rattled off some of the offerings that will be in the sanctuary space:

“There’s going to be an enchanted forest, a construction zone, a water zone, a city zone, a mountain path, a mill zone, a rural zone and a cave,” she said.

She and Keys walked into the birthday party room, which sported fresh yellow, gray and blue walls with blue bubbles painted on cabinets.

“I helped paint this wall,” Bella said, motioning to a gray wall near the door.

The Waterville City Council in January voted to rezone the church property from Residential-B to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A to allow the museum to move there. The condition of the contract zone is that the only permitted uses of the property are a children’s museum, a day care center and the existing church.

The Children’s Museum has been in existence 26 years.

The 14,000-square-foot church has about 125 members, its pastor, Mark Wilson, said last year. It was built in 1966. Before that, it was on Temple Street for 160 years, behind where the current Colby College residential complex is now. Some current church members also attended the Temple Street church, which was demolished as part of urban renewal efforts many years ago. Church officials plan to keep the church alive and hope to move to another location in Waterville when the museum takes over the space.


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