Urban Thinkscape Halifax

The Urban Thinkscape Halifax group meets in downtown Halifax including (from left) Barbara Bass, Halifax vice-mayor Gail Bosiger, Shelia Bradley, Marsha Hite, co-owner of Hite Insurance Agency, Earl Howerton and Denise Barksdale, assistant manager for the town of Halifax and Halifax Market Place manager.

The managers of the Downtown South Boston Farmers’ Market and the Halifax Market Place both are designing downtown “Thinkscapes” to promote childhood learning through play. 

“The whole goal for the Thinkscape is to have a space dedicated to the kids of the community. I really want to encourage families to bring their children downtown and get them involved in the community,” said Megan Throckmorton-Harris, manager of the Downtown South Boston Farmers’ Market. “The Thinkscape will give the children a chance to learn and explore while their family sees what downtown South Boston has to offer.”

Throckmorton-Harris and Halifax Market Place manager Denise Barksdale along with the Here’s Halifax! Beautification working group both applied for a $5,000 grant as part of the ChangeX/Microsoft Sustainable Communities Challenge for the Thinkscapes. 

Once their initial applications were approved, Barksdale and Throckmorton-Harris had to complete a 30-day challenge to unlock 70% or $3,500 of the grant, which included creating an official group for their Thinkscape project and having a first group meeting. 

Barksdale’s group “Urban Thinkscape Halifax” is set to receive the $3,500 seed money in the next couple of weeks. 

Throckmorton-Harris’ group “Thinkscape for kids at the Downtown South Boston Farmers’ Market” has already received the seed funding to start work on their Thinkscape. 

After submitting Thinkscape project impact, the groups will receive the rest of the grant funding.

Urban Thinkscape is an initiative of Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network based on the science of childhood learning and research of child development experts and PLANN founders Drs. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff.

Thinkscapes typically engage children in learning through play in urban areas where waiting is involved, such as bus stops, Throckmorton-Harris explained. 

In downtown South Boston, the farmers’ market manager envisions the Thinkscape installations being used by children whose parents frequent the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, and by home-schooled children whose parents take them on outings to enhance their learning. 

“Anything that is going to encourage children to keep learning, the better,” Throckmorton-Harris commented. 

Urban Thinkscape Halifax

This alleyway and the walls of the adjacent businesses — Guns N Stuff and Hite Insurance Agency — are the future site of “Urban Thinkscape Halifax,” an area to promote children’s learning through play while at the same time contributing to the revitalization of downtown Halifax. The Urban Thinkscape Halifax group has plans in the next couple of weeks to remove the vines/ pressure wash the walls and add lighting to the area.

Several of the elements that Throckmorton-Harris would like to see as part of the Thinkscape are a puzzle wall, a sound garden consisting of metal industrial instruments and a sensory walk incorporating natural elements such as stepping stones. 

Ultimately, Throckmorton-Harris said she would like to see a trail of Thinkscapes throughout downtown South Boston, not just at the farmers’ market.

The site of Urban Thinkscape Halifax is the 11 ½-foot-wide, 68-foot-long alleyway between Guns N Stuff, owned by Frank Booker, and Hite Insurance Agency, co-owned by Marsha Hite. 

The property walls belonging to both businesses will become the Urban Thinkscape walls. Within the next couple of weeks, Barksdale said the group hopes to do some initial cleanup and installation of lights in the area. 

“This Urban Thinkscape space takes an underutilized space and turns it into a multi-use space,” Barksdale shared. “It will give the entire community a space to come play and learn, even enjoy a meal at one of the bistro tables. Kids or parents looking to enjoy the outside and do some school or office work will have access to free WiFi.”

The Halifax Market Place manager/ assistant Halifax town manager explained Urban Thinkscape ties in with the town’s overall revitalization plan for the downtown area and the Here’s Halifax! working groups’ current projects.

The Thinkscape will have a “Jumping Feet” layout incorporating planters, plants and stones to encourage the children to learn through play. 

Two of the components that the Halifax group is discussing incorporating in the Thinkscape are a puzzle wall and a living free library. A local contractor has offered to build the library free of charge. 

The Urban Thinkscape Halifax group also would like to use part of the wall space as a chalk art wall or space for children to work out math problems. The group plans to work with a local artist to create maps of the town and county on some of the wall space, as well.

To join the downtown Urban Thinkscape Halifax group, visit 

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.