An afternoon at the museum

Published 10:27 pm Monday, September 21, 2009

SELMA — Rafting down the Alabama River, Amani Riley and her friends found a rough patch in the waters, infested with sharks. As the two boys rocked the raft, Amani and the three other girls in the raft shrieked. Only in the Selma Children’s Museum exhibit, which is visiting the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County until Sept. 25, would sharks make their way into the Alabama River.

Instead of requesting the children lower their voices and focus on the exhibit, LaFawnda Watson, founder of the Selma Children’s Museum, asked where along the river the children might be located.

“It gets noisy in here. It’s a children’s museum, so they act like children,” Watson said.

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Until a year and a half ago, the Selma area did not have a children’s museum. Wilson thought to bring experiential learning to Selma after visiting numerous museums of this nature with her two children. “I found that children’s museums are affordable and fun for all of us,” Watson said.

After joining the Association of Children’s Museums and visiting conventions, Watson formed this traveling exhibit. “We are just a museum without a roof,” Watson said.

Usually setting up in schools, the YMCA offered Watson more space, allowing ten areas of the exhibit.

Children learn about measuring by making pizzas from felt ingredients, draw pictures and turn it into a personalized puzzle, sit in a raft and read posters about the Alabama River, lounge by a fire on a television screen while reading a book and wearing a scarf, or watch a video about how to make a kite, as well as other exhibits.

Watson also rotates the type of exhibits to display, gathering ideas about new things to feature from the suggestions of her sons at times.

“This is mostly hands-on things where they can touch, learn and have fun, all at the same time,” Watson said.

Before Riley bounced around the exhibits, chatting with the children at each table, she strolled to the Alabama River exhibit, complete with a raft beneath a blue tent draped with fish stuffed animals, crepe paper, and trash pieces that might also float along in a river. “I wanted to see where the Alabama River is, well, actually, I just wanted to sit in the raft,” Riley said.

Riley said she was excited to go into the exhibit when she saw the decorations through the windows. “I thought it looked pretty because of all the colors and decorations,” Riley said.

Participating in the YMCA after school program, Riley has visited this exhibit more than once. Her favorite station of the exhibit is making pizzas with different types of toppings. “It teaches you about fractions,” Riley said. “That’s my favorite thing to do.”

The Children’s Museum costs $2.50 per child and $3.50 per adult. Follow Watson and the Museum on Twitter at or visit HYPERLINK “” for more information.