AHA! A Hands-On Adventure: A Children's Museum

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

From the moment we walked through the doors at the AHA! Museum in downtown Lancaster, we were greeted with the sounds of fun. The voices of children and shrieks of laughter filled the air.

Four of my grandchildren accompanied me to the museum for a visit, three to participate and the older grandson to assist me with the younger kids. We had only 90 minutes, but we packed a lot of fun into that short amount of time.

The 4,500-square-foot building is truly a hands-on adventure. Kids who visit have the opportunity to use their imagination to become a firefighter, a construction worker, a veterinarian, an actor, an artist, a grocery clerk, a gardener and a musician. Each of these roles is the focus of one of approximately 30 activity centers spread throughout the two rooms that comprise the museum space.

The most popular activity for my 18-month-old grandson was the water table, where kids don a waterproof cape and are able to adjust the flow of water by adding and removing gates and PVC pipe. He was happy to stand there and let the water run across his arms and, of course, splash!

My 6-year-old granddaughter is a social butterfly, and she flitted from activity to activity. The gardening station included an apron, gardening tools and plenty of flowers. She enjoyed dressing in several costumes in the stage activity and became a princess coming through the curtains. She accompanied her older brother on an emergency run. She liked having her face painted and being on stage the best.

My 8-year-old grandson liked being a grocery clerk and making change with the play money in the cash register. He liked the fire engine the best: He donned the pants, jacket and hat and envisioned himself as the driver of a fire truck heading out to save the day, blaring lights and siren all the way.

We had a fishing contest to see who could be first to catch three fish using the magnetized poles and fish (I won!).

In addition to all of these activities, special events are held at AHA! on the first Saturday of the month. Science Saturday, held from 11 a.m.-12 noon, gives kids the opportunity to participate in a hands-on experiment.

"This month we had a birds in flight theme with an oil and feather activity and a kit supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources," said Elise Prosbasco, AHA! coordinator.

Messy Mondays are held every week from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., with upcoming events including painting, bubble wrap art and puppets.

The staff at AHA! works hard to prepare events that are both fun and educational, and it is obvious that they really enjoy their work.

"I like interacting with the kids and their families," said Assistant Manager Andrea Robinson, who has worked at AHA! for four years. "I like seeing their faces light up as they play."

My grandchildren enjoyed our visit and asked when we could return. I had fun, too, so I hope to return with them and another almost-3-year-old grandson soon.

AHA! is working on a capital campaign to move to a much larger space behind the River Valley Mall on Memorial Drive in Lancaster.

General Manager Wendy Kaho said 11 acres have been purchased with donated funds, and the campaign has raised about two-thirds of the $950,000 needed to break ground. The new location will include both indoor and outdoor exhibit areas, more room for parties and storage, and a large parking area.

"We will be able to add STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming at our new location," Kaho said. "Lancaster has a rich arts community, so it would be great to tap into that."

To donate to the AHA! Capital Campaign, go to aha4kids.org/donateaha/. Donor recognition opportunities are available.