FAIRMONT — Plans for a planned children’s museum in Marion County are kicking into high gear.

This week, NorthStar Museums & Education is coming to Fairmont to advise and assist in the planning and development of the proposed “children’s hands-on discovery center for Marion County.”

NorthStar describes itself as “an innovative project management firm that collaborates with not-for-profit agencies in the development and implementation of multi-phase development projects, including, but not exclusive to art and cultural museums, zoos, recreational facilities, and youth educational museums.” It’s been involved with the creation and development of such places as the Miami Children’s Museum, the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Zoo.

NorthStar founders Ron Street and Rosella Harvey will speak at the Marion County Family Resource Network’s monthly meeting at the Marion County Board of Education at noon on Jan. 15 and then at 4 p.m. the same date at the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.

“This is really the next step in actually bringing the museum here,” said Frank Jarman, executive director of the MCFRN.

Jarman said in an email that “the event is open to the public, and all are encouraged to attend.” He said the public’s input is welcomed.

Jarman said MCFRN is using NorthStar for “everything from planning to fundraising to actually bringing the building to fruition.”

“They actually bring the concepts that people have to life, do everything from helping us not just cast a vision, but look at the economic part of bringing a museum here, what this area can support,” he said.

He said a feasibility study on the area’s ability to support such a venture will be done over a couple months.

Jarman said NorthStar has already sent some questions that the committee for the proposed museum has been working on.

He provided a list of the questions, which include such inquiries as “who would be you target audience for the Discovery Center – age range?” and “what do you envision as being the primary content for the Discovery Center?”

Jarman said there are various reasons why the Discovery Center is being pursued.

“Our reason is to get kids excited about science and technology and increase their participation in school,” he said.

When children continue in their education and don’t drop out of school, he said, there’s less of a chance for them to get involved in such “terrible things” as addiction.

He also likes the opportunity a children’s museum would offer for families to spend time together outside their home, and how such a facility would benefit the area.

Previously, Marion County Schools Superintendent Randy Farley said the BOE is helping by contributing ideas and being part of the committee that is exploring the museum.

“We’re very interested in that coming to fruition in Fairmont,” he said.

Jarman said an application has been made to Toyota for a STEAM grant in the amount of $200,000 for the proposed museum, and word is being awaited as to whether it will be awarded.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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