Meet Habitot’s Founder


As a new mother and a former elementary school science teacher, Gina Moreland was frustrated to find that most museums catered to older children and few offered hands-on learning to those under the age of 5. She founded Habitot Children’s Museum in 1992 with the support of fellow East Bay parents and community members. It took another six years and the help of generous donors and landlords before the doors of the Berkeley museum opened in 1998.

“[Habitot] has become a community center where families from all walks of life can come, gather and get ideas from one another,” said Moreland, noting that there are 180,000 kids under the age of 6 living in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Habitot reaches its audience by working with literacy and early childhood programs, granting scholarships and offering one or two free admission days a month so the center’s rich play environment is accessible to all children, regardless of their financial situation.

Moreland, 52, moved to California in the 1970s. She grew up in suburban Texas surrounded by fields of cows and nature reserves. She remembers it as a time when stay-at-home mothers congregated along the backyard fence. She acknowledges that the lifestyle does not exist anymore — especially in the Bay Area, where the cost of living has even middle-class families struggling.

“Habitot is essential for the community — it’s like a library that helps kids get the right start and assists parents in the community,” she said.

The museum offers urban children a chance to experience nature in an indoor setting, but Moreland’s goal is to offer them an opportunity to explore the outdoors as well.

“Being able to dig in the dirt, climb trees and build forts allows children to be agents of change,” said the mother of two.

Excerpted from: JEFFERSON AWARD: Presented to Gina Moreland / Love of nature led to tot spot, Heather Maddan, Heather. SFGate. Sep. 17, 2006. Retrieved February 2022.