Renderings reveal vision for all-new Children’s Museum

Four conceptual renderings were released Dec. 14, providing Londoners — including founder Carol Johnston — with a first look inside the future London Children’s Museum.

Carol Johnston founded Canada’s first children’s museum in 1975 with the intention of providing the community — and kids in particular — with a cultural and educational resource that fostered the development of young minds.

Work has been underway for several months as London Children’s Museum prepares to move into to a new home at 100 Kellogg Lane.

On Dec. 14, Johnston and a group of staff members, community stakeholders and supporters were given a first look at what the Children’s Museum is becoming when four conceptual renderings were released by design firm Gyroscope Inc.

“I think it’s called evolution,” said Johnston, who is also the Children’s Museum honorary board chair. “You take the seeds, the essence of things have started, and you help them grow into even more wonderful possibilities. That’s what I see.”

The master plan is the result of input from hundreds of children, families, educators and community members, and according to Johnston provides the overall vision for a re-imagined Children’s Museum.

“I think it’s very well done. I think they’ve caught what we are and what we want to be,” Johnston said. “That’s important because everybody has to change and grow and evolve and we do too, just as people do. That’s what’s shown in these drawings, all the possibilities.”

The new Children’s Museum will feature eight zones offering immersive and interactive play experiences.

From a network of treehouses and animal habitats to a mini streetscape, children will have the opportunity to flex their imaginations and indulge their curiosity. A stream to play in, underground caves to explore, farming and planting, digging for gems, and a space for making and tinkering are just some of the experiences the new Children’s Museum will offer.

“The new Children’s Museum really is inspired by children’s ideas,” says Children’s Museum executive director Amanda Conlon. “Children told us they want to know how things work and why. They want to know what is under the ground and what is out in the universe. They want to test, experiment and explore. The master plan lays the foundation for us to make their dreams a reality and aims to create experiences that are full of wonder.”

Completion of the Children’s Museum master plan will now be followed by architectural planning, exhibit design and custom exhibit fabrication. This process is expected to take three years.

The re-imagined Children’s Museum is expected to be completed by 2021 at a cost of $14 million.

Tasha Leverette, Chief Action Officer at Gyroscope Inc., said she was happy with the public’s reactions to the vision presented in the master plan.

“Everyone loves it; they’re really excited and want to see the project built,” Leverette said. “The reactions I heard this morning said they were thrilled with how well it represented the community, reflected the community, and really put the child’s perspective and view of the world at the centre of the experience.”

Johnston said people have been asking her about the future of the Children’s Museum since the move to 100 Kellogg Lane was announced in May 2018.

They’re “impatient for it to happen, we all are,” Johnston said, adding the sentiment she heard at the public unveiling was all extremely positive.

“They are all ecstatic. I know the work that has to go into making this a reality, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” she said. It’s going to be transformational. These concepts are fantastic, very well done. We’re still two years away . . . but it will be an investment not only in our children, but our whole city. We will be a showcase; it will be wonderful.”

Until renovation is complete at 100 Kellogg Lane, the Children’s Museum will remain open at 21 Wharncliffe Rd. S. The community can stay up-to-date on the new Children’s Museum at


Londoners to mark 100 years of federal voting rights for women

Women's March pic
An event to mark the 100th anniversary of Canadian women receiving the right to vote in a federal election will be held Saturday, May 26.

On May 24, 1918, Canadian women received the right to vote in federal elections for the first time, a historic moment Londoners are going to recognize with an event wrapping up at Eldon House.

Century for Women: Votes, Voices and Choices, which will mark the 100th anniversary of this landmark moment in the nation’s history, is set for Saturday, May 26.

The celebration will include a march from the Normal School on Elmwood Avenue to Eldon House Heritage Site and Gardens. The march will be followed by speakers, music and refreshments at Eldon House on the grounds.

The march will begin at 11a.m. and proceed to The Covent Garden Market Square and then to Eldon House.

The march and the event that follows, which are free and open to the general public, was planned months ago by a community committee led by author and women’s rights activist Dr. Jean Hewitt, and Eldon House program co-ordinator Danielle Costello.

“We want everyone to know about the great Canadian women in our history” Hewitt said, “But we still have a way to go and we need the energy of this next generation to take us there.”

This celebration of the 100th anniversary of the vote is part of a series of events organized by the committee and held in London during 2018 to mark the progress women have made and discuss what is left to do.

When Sir Robert Borden and his government promoted the idea of giving women over 21 the vote, two groups of women were left out — Asian women didn’t get the vote until 1947 and Indigenous women had to wait until 1960.

For more information, contact Danielle Costello at Eldon House, 519-661-5169, or by email at

London Clean & Green wraps up, but the mission continues

Clean & Green committee
The London Clean & Green organizing committee (from left: Rick Vandersluis, Erin Helm, Ron Scarfone, Carmela Ianni, Colleen Watson, Jay Stanford, Shannon Byron and Aashima Verma) have wrapped up another 12 Days of Cleaning, but remain committed to spreading their message of environmental awareness and action.

The London Clean & Green kicked off its 23rd year back on April 10 with comments from several people, including yours truly.

I was flattered to be asked to speak at the launch and bring my perspective to an event I have been covering for most of the 16 years I’ve been in the Forest City.

The London Clean & Green has grown far beyond what even the organizers originally imagined. What was once a Saturday morning event has expanded to include the 12 Days of Cleaning and signature events such as the 20-Minute Makeover corporate challenge and the annual tree plantings in St. Julien Park on Earth Day.

In my comments that day I spoke about being among the first reporters in the city to really get behind London Clean & Green, not only covering launch events and photo ops, but telling stories about those who were willing to stand up and do their part for a truly cleaner and hopefully greener city.

“People respond to stories; people respond to stories of their fellow Londoners getting involved, caring and taking action on that caring not just standing around saying let’s do something,” I said that day, adding that Londoners care enough to get out every spring for more than two decades and clean up their city.

With that in mind I was given the opportunity this year to continue telling those stories while sharing them on my Newswriter22 blog.

There were plenty of stories to tell.

Jay Stanford, London Clean & Green committee member and the City of London’s director of environment, fleet and solid waste, addressed the litter problem from the view of the municipality.

“We’re getting the people out there picking stuff up,” he said. “We’re hearing about it, seeing it in photographs, but we also know it keeps coming back. That’s why we have to adjust and do more.”

That effort was reflected through many conversations I had the pleasure of sharing over the past couple weeks.

Nadine Reeves, communications and marketing co-ordinator at Childreach, spoke about how her organization’s ongoing participation in the 20-Minute Makeover helped not only clean up their property, but connect with their neighbours while inspiring the children they care for to be environmentally minded.

Nicole St. John, herself a former London Clean & Green committee member and a long-time community cleanup participant, expressed why she continues to be involved in the project.

Not only is she out there picking up garbage during the Community Cleanup Day, but she is also out there throughout the year, doing her part to pick up litter.

“I’d like to hope that’s not who we are; I have hope that attitude can change,” she said. “If you have enough people . . . taking measures to clean up and not throw their litter down on the ground, I do think things can change.”

That effort continued this year and all it takes is a quick jump on social media to see the progress.

The London Clean & Green brought in Fanshawe College students Colleen Watson and Aashima Verma to push the organization’s message out across the internet. If you want proof Londoners embraced that call, visit Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and search for the hashtags #519CleanGreen and #20MinuteMakeover and you’ll see all the proof you need.

As the cleanup portion of London’s environmental efforts comes to a close, concentration has shifted to the greening.

May is the time for events such as tree plantings, compost sales, plant exchanges, nature walks and more.

For more details of how you can continue to create a cleaner and greener city, visit the London Environmental Network at

Londoners embrace a cleaner, greener Forest City

Community cleanup
More than 75 people turned out for the London Hydro community cleanup effort, joining thousands of Londoners who took part in the London Clean & Green Community Cleanup Day on April 21.

Mother Nature decided to cut Londoners a break as the seemingly endless winter broke in time for the London Clean & Green’s annual Community Cleanup Day.

The cleanup, the 23rd edition of which took place April 21, saw Londoners fan out across the Forest City, cleaning up neighbourhoods, local parks and waterways. They also got into the spirit of the day, sharing photos from dozens of community cleanup locations using the #519CleanGreen.

One such cleanup saw more than 75 employees and family members from London Hydro get involved for the fifth year.

The participants broke up into groups to clean up around the utility property, as well as in Thames and Carfrae parks and along the Thames River up to the Horton Street bridge.

After five years of community cleanup efforts, London Hydro environmental supervisor Tom Arnos said he’s thrilled by how the staff has come together to make a difference in the London Clean & Green’s efforts.

That said, he’s still concerned about just how much garbage ends up on the ground every spring.

“It seems like we start at the same point each year, unfortunately. But the best thing to understand is that as a society we’re understanding what we’re doing isn’t right,” he said. “We don’t have to do much, we just put up a poster to let them know what we’re doing and the staff responds.”

London Hydro director of operations Allan Van Damme was quick to add corporations need to be as mindful as their employees.

After all, he adds, employees are always looking for ways the company can be more sustainable.

“I think we’re all getting more aware of the environmental impacts and what impact we have on our environment. People are looking for ways to give back to our environment and this is a way to give back,” Van Damme said. “Hopefully everybody is becoming more aware about the impact of that and that fewer people still throw out things like that. I do think, as a society, people are becoming more aware.”

Katrina Reinhart, a London Hydro corporate communications assistant, said the cleanup day is “a great thing” for not only the wider community, but her fellow employees too.

After all, it’s a positive event that can also be used to bring together staff and their families in support of an important cause.

“I think this turnout shows we care. They care about where they work, they care about London, and a lot of our jobs reflect that as well,” she said. “This area is our whole backyard. We cleanup Carfrae park, Thames Park, along the river. We do make sure children aren’t close to the river. The cleanup is always safety-first.”

If the London Hydro cleanup is closer to a party than a volunteer effort, then it makes sense prizes are awarded as well.

Cleanup participants are given prizes for the most trash collected, the “dirtiest” participant, but also for the strangest items collected.

Arnos said their efforts have often seen everything from bicycles to Hoover vacuums collected.

For Reinhart, the all-time prize for strangest piece of garbage probably goes to an item picked up during London Hydro’s first cleanup, five year ago.

“Usually we get old broken dolls, sometimes lost cat posters, we get a lot of weird things,” she said. “My favourite has to be when someone brought back a ski. They actually brought it back into the building just to prove they found it.”

Clean streets, changing attitudes, goals of Clean & Green volunteers

Cleanup volunteers crop pic
Long-time Community Cleanup Day participant and former London Clean & Green committee member Nicole St. John will once again be joining thousands of Londoners picking up trash across the city on Saturday, April 21.

Nicole St. John has taken part in London Clean & Green for nearly a decade now, not only because she wants to pick up litter in her Riverforks neighbourhood, but because she wants to help set an example.

St. John, a former London Clean & Green committee member, is looking forward to taking part in her ninth community cleanup day on Saturday, April 21.

She’s also hoping the organization’s overall message will become further entrenched because of her frustration around some people’s idea that it’s OK to litter because someone else will be along to pick up after them.

“I’d like to hope that’s not who we are; I have hope that attitude can change. If you have enough people . . . taking measures to clean up and not throw their litter down on the ground, I do think things can change,” she said. “We need more role models and examples. Truth be told, I’ve been that person who if you’re walking ahead of me and drop that candy wrapper, I will say, ‘Excuse me, you dropped something.’ That’s not backfired on me yet.”

This year marks the 23rd London Clean & Green Community Cleanup Day, which is designed to get Londoners out into their neighbourhoods between 9 a.m. and noon, picking up litter, removing graffiti and planting trees.

Pastor Graham Buchanan from West London Alliance Church is another longtime community cleanup day participant.

The church congregation has been taking part in the cleanup for the past six years because the Beaverbrook and Wonderland area where they are what he calls a high-traffic area when it comes to litter.

The first few years, Buchanan recalls — somewhat jokingly — participants were “pulling chunks of cars out of the bushes,” trash that seemingly hadn’t been touched in decades.

That said, litter in its many forms remains a problem Buchanan said the community has to take a stand against.

And that goes not just for people’s individual properties.

“It isn’t just our own property, and we have eight acres, so you can imagine how much garbage we can get around our trees and such, but also the buildings around us, the businesses,” he said. “We want to be better neighbours so if we can initiate that kind of cleanup with them, to us it makes a lot of sense.”

It also makes sense, Buchanan adds, for him to get young people involved in the cleanup.

For example, he’s bringing his 10-year-old son out to the community cleanup because he sees it as important to model good behavior to today’s younger generation — an age group he believes is eager to get involved in creating change.

“People are always looking for a practical way to get involved and you can’t get much more practical than this,” he said. “The younger people are looking to be invited into the solution. You see all the activism groups they have out there, young people want to be involved, they just don’t know how to do that. The more we can be intentional about it, the better.”

For St. John, the environment is “extremely important on so many levels,” and London Clean & Green is an easy way to spend a couple hours, connect with neighbours, and take pride in cleaning up the community.

It’s also a good way, she adds, to deal with that “lazy trash attitude,” that someone else will fix the problem.

“I’m always shocked at the amount of litter we do clean up. We see it on the sidewalks every day, but when you actually put it in a big pile it’s a little shocking,” she said. “Every year after the cleanup, because I am an avid walker, I will walk up my street and take pride in knowing we did this as a community and I was part of it.”

Putting in 20 minutes of action for a cleaner London

20-Minute Childreach
The staff at Childreach will once again be cleaning up around their property during this year’s 20-Minute Makeover. The corporate cleanup challenge is set for Friday, April 20 at locations across London.

For the past decade, staff at Childreach have joined together each spring to take part in the annual 20-minue effort to cleaning up the space around their Maitland Street offices, but also to engage with their neighbours as well.

On Friday, April 20, some two-dozen Childreach staffers will join employees from literally hundreds of businesses across the city to take part in the London Clean & Green‘s annual 20-Minute Makeover.

Geared to London’s business community, the makeover encourages participants to grab some garbage bags and get out in neighbourhoods around London for a 20-minute collection of all that garbage unveiled by the spring’s melting snow.

“We love our neighbourhood and we’re also close to downtown, lots of stores and warehouses and stuff, so it gets pretty dirty. There’s a lot of litter,” said Nadine Reeves, communications and marketing co-ordinator at Childreach. “Some of the stuff we pick up can be dangerous for the families that are coming to visit us . . . drug paraphernalia and such. So, it’s good for safety, it’s good for the environment, it beautifies our neighbourhood.”

In addition to collecting bags of trash, participants in the makeover are encouraged to post a photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using the hashtags #20MinuteMakeover and #519CleanGreen for a chance to win a pizza lunch provided by Joe Kool’s Restaurant.

Reeves said there are many reasons her office takes part in the makeover.

For one, Childreach staff are often working out in the community, at different programs, and are often isolating themselves from many of their colleagues.

Taking part in the 20-Minute Makeover, Reeves said, is also good for raising the centre’s community visibility and spotlighting the programming that encourages active participation in the neighbourhood while taking care of the environment.

Childreach is an early-years, parenting resource centre that’s been in operation for 40 years.

Environmental awareness hasn’t always been Childreach’s message, but Reeves said it does hit home today.

Reeves said another reason Childreach takes part in the makeover is that it allows staff to get into the community, where they will not only take part in the cleanup effort, engage with their neighbours as well.

Peter Carr understands that connection as approximately 18 staffers at Preferred Insurance Group have been getting behind the makeover for a number of years as well.

Carr, vice-president of sales and marketing, said the company initially got involved in the makeover because it was a great way to get staff involved in the community, help with the tidying up, and to be good neighbour as well.

“It doesn’t take long when everybody gets out. Many hands make light work is how the saying goes,” he said. “If everybody did that, it would be pretty nice around town. I know a lot of businesses, a lot of community pick-ups, but if you go somewhere and see garbage lying around, it doesn’t look nice.”

The litter picked up around Preferred’s Wharncliffe Road South office remains “pretty much constant” year after year.

A lot of the trash blows into the area, gathers around trees and shrubs, but the hope is people see the company’s out there doing the makeover and that it inspires them to do the same.

“We do it because it’s the right thing to do, gets everyone involved, but if we’re setting a good example I see that as a good thing,” Carr said. “I worried (in the beginning) it might not go over so well, going out to pick up trash. But when it’s all done, things look better, we feel better. We go a little beyond our property to do our part, but it’s kind of like a haircut, you feel better when it’s done.”

Whether plastic bags or couches, trash comes in all sizes

Most Littered pic
Part of London Clean & Green’s message involves educating Londoners on the most common forms of litter found on city streets. Sometimes those pieces of trash are larger than cigarette butts and coffee cups.

Plastic bags, cigarette butts and paper cups are just some of the most common types of garbage to be found on London streets, but they aren’t the items that Rick Vandersluis still gets surprised by.

Vandersluis, vice-president of business development at Try Recycling Inc. and a member of the London Clean & Green organizing committee, recently had this reality brought into focus while driving on a sideroad not far from his office.

“There was a site I passed and there were a couple of couches I saw sitting at the side of the road,” he said. “It’s probably the couches and mattresses, the big bulky items, that still surprise me. Those are the most obvious to me.

Couch trash
Despite more than 20 years of messaging, people continue to improperly dispose of items, including furniture. — Rick Vandersluis Photo

With the London Clean & Green’s annual community cleanup day approaching on Saturday, April 21, attention is once again being focused on the types of litter most commonly picked up from streets and along hedges and fences all over the Forest City.

According to London Clean & Green, the Top 10 items of litter include: plastic bags, cigarette butts and packaging, renovation materials, paper cups, snack and candy wrappers, beverage cans and bottles, drinking straws, expanded foam plastic, chewing gum and paper packaging and flyers.

While those are the most common types of litter, Vandersluis said he remains most perplexed when someone decides to dispose of those larger items (furniture and appliances for example) into a nearby ditch.

“They really are halfway there to dealing with it responsibly by taking the time to put it in their vehicle. People know the proper ways,” he said. “There are recycling areas, bulk item drop-offs. There are places for that stuff to go. I would say its laziness and people trying to get away with not paying a drop-off fee.”

The idea of avoiding the fees associated with proper disposal of these larger scale items (or perhaps those more common bags of renovation materials) is one Vandersluis said is hard to understand.

After all, individuals caught illegally dumping trash can face a fine in the vicinity of $500 while tipping fees at official sites run around $50. “People think there is no consequence, but there really is.”

Fortunately, Vandersluis said, he’s seeing less of those kinds of items being dumped illegally.

When it comes to those more common pieces of litter, items like the paper cups and candy wrappers, proper disposal, Vandersluis said, becomes a mindset.

People are less inclined, he added, to throw items out the window as they’re driving down the road. They set them in their vehicle and when they get to where they’re going, people are more often disposing of those items properly.

Drinking straws is another popular trash item, but Vandersluis said they are becoming less popular outside of restaurants.

Plastic grocery bags are another item slowly being faded out of regular use as cloth bags become more the norm. And for those who do use plastic bags, people are now more educated that these items can be recycled instead of thrown into the landfill.

“We’re out there to educate. We aren’t there to beat the drum to say thou shall do this. No, we’re out there spreading the word that these are the opportunities you can partake of to help make your city a better place,” Vandersluis said. “It just takes time. We’re 23 years into doing this now and the fact of the matter is we’re making strides.”