By Christine Graf
The World Awareness Children’s Museum in Glens Falls seeks to inspire curiosity and foster understanding and appreciation of worldwide cultural diversity. It was founded by Dr. Jacquiline Touba and received its charter from New York State in 1995. Touba, an artist and former college professor, retired from the museum in 2013 but remains active as a volunteer.
Bethanie Lawrence was named executive director of the museum in 2018. A former teacher, Lawrence relocated to the area two years ago to be closer to family.
“I think we do a lot of good work here teaching people about different cultures, different people, and different places in the world,” she said. “I feel like we are truly making a difference in people’s lives, especially in the North Country/Adirondack region where there really isn’t much exposure to things that might be vastly different from what we are used to. So, we do a lot to teach people what is beyond their bubble.”
The museum is located in a two-story building at 89 Warren St. An interactive, hands-on learning space can be found on the museum’s first floor. The space is designed to give children and families the opportunity to explore countries from around the world and learn about different people and cultures. The second floor features 8,000+ pieces of child-made art from around the world as well as 10,000+ cultural and historical artifacts.
The museum also conducts educational programs both on site and at schools. A fee is charged for these programs, but the museum has a scholarship fund that has allowed them to provide free programming to some lower-income school districts. The museum’s educator travels to schools within a one-hour radius of Glens Falls.
“We offer programs about cultural clothing, Chinese New Year, Day of the Dead, and different flags and their symbolism around the world. We offer programs on food from around the world, and we do a program on different architectural influences that we can see here in our area—things like columns and arches,” said Lawrence. “The programs we offer at the museum are more tour based. We don’t have the facilities available to do a classroom program here at the museum. We do tours with either short lessons on one of the countries we have represented here or a tour and a craft.”
The World Awareness Children’s Museum, a non-profit governed by a board of directors, is funded by individual donors, foundations and grants. The museum also conduct various fundraisers throughout the year and charges an admission fee of $5 for adults and children over age 3.
During the school year, the museum is opened on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Hours are extended during the summer.
According to Lawrence, she and her staff are working hard to promote awareness of the museum outside of the Glens Falls area.
“I think in the Warren and Washington County area, people are starting to know us well. I think we are doing a really good job of putting ourselves out into this area,” she said. “Beyond this area, I don’t think we are known as much. That’s something we are working on very hard.”
For more information and for a list of special programs and events, visit www.worldchildrensmuseum.org
By Christine Graf