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Beyond the Mission Statement: Bloomsburg Children's Museum image
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April 29, 2024
Beyond the Mission Statement: Bloomsburg Children's Museum
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In our effort to create NEPA’s most comprehensive nonprofit directory, we came across hundreds of amazing organizations. Naturally, we wanted to share their inspiring stories.

In this series, we aim to highlight the hard-working organizations, the good people, the selfless volunteers, the helpers, the healers, the listeners, the comforters and all the great work they do. We hope that, through these stories, you too will be inspired to lend your time, your hands and your hearts. Follow along as we take a look beyond the mission statement.

Kids Gain Valuable Knowledge With Hands-On Learning

Step inside the unassuming brick building just a few blocks off of charming Main St. in downtown Bloomsburg into the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum and you’ll enter a world of imagination, play and learning all flawlessly woven together to create a truly magical space fostering a love of learning.

With over 50 hands-on interactive exhibits to explore, the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum is unlike traditional museums, where precious art and artifacts are housed behind glass and touching is strictly off-limits. Instead, children and grow-ups alike are encouraged to touch and learn through play, discovery games, and activities centered around science, history, culture and art.

The space is a wonderland straight out of a child’s imagination

Attend school in an old-fashioned school room. Journey back to 1910 and the early days of Pennsylvania coal mining. Transport to ancient Egypt and visit a sarcophagus. Blast off into space. Along the Greenway, learn about birds, nests and animals who make their home along the Susquehanna River and explore their underground tunnels.

See how and where Native American’s lived in Pennsylvania and explore a replica of their living quarters. Let your imagination go wild as you put on a puppet show on Center Stage. Or, become part of the Simple Machine exhibit, navigating hockey balls through the 13-foot-high maze using crank wheels to twist, turn and guide them along.

 

Firsthand learning opportunities for all ages

While staff say the littlest learners gravitate toward the bird’s nest, the older learners love the Simple Machine. The most popular exhibit overall – the coal mine. One thread that ties all the exhibits together is that everything in the museum is thoughtfully created and crafted with one purpose in mind – learning.

Dr. Ginny Weibel, the Museum’s Director emphasizes, “We are a children’s museum so we want to be play-friendly and comfortable with lots and lots of educational points to it.”

Meaning, everything at the museum is there for a purpose, even the turtles. But it’s also the teaching points that matter. And when learn and play click for a child, that’s when the magic happens for Ginny.

“We had one parent describe us as the special sauce,” she says enthusiastically. “We like to reinforce what kids are learning in school and then, when a kid makes those connections, they’re inspired to learn more. They see the practical applications of what they’re learning and what they could do. I love to see that look on a kids face when they’re like, this is cool. I get this!”

 

Beacon of Education and Creativity Founded by Friends

The idea of the Children’s Museum was hatched in the grocery store between founders Liz Strauss and Elaine Everett in 1983. What started as mobile exhibits that were transported to area schools and centers grew and expanded, eventually occupying space in the Caldwell Consistory during the summer months. By 2002, they’d outgrown their temporary location and found their permanent home at the former Friendship Fire Company building. In 2004, the museum was open year-round. And in 2023, they welcomed 40,000 visitors through their doors.

Today, they continue to carry out the same mission, the very idea the Museum was built on: to enrich the lives of its visitors by fostering a lifelong love of learning through enjoyable interactive programs and exhibits that bring out the imagination of every visitor.

Dr. Weibel can attest to just how special the museum is. Having grown up near Philadelphia, she spent her childhood visiting the Please Touch Museum, The Franklin Institute and the Philadelphia Art Museum. Fourteen years ago, her family moved to the area when she visited the museum with her young children. “As soon as I walked through the doors I was like, The Franklin Institute has nothing on this place,” she says. “So, I started working as a science instructor and volunteering with the museum. Long story short, here I am. It was just walking through the doors and I fell in love with the place.”

 

Inspiring Learning and Curiosity

In addition to the interactive exhibits, the Children’s Museum offers classroom space for lessons hosted by the community, including an infant/toddler music class by Kerry Kenny, founder of Music Together of Bloomsburg, year-round programming, special classes, story time, all-abilities nights, summer camps, afterschool Maker Camp and special events.

“I’m so proud of our educational programs,” adds Ginny. “We have data to show that kid’s gain self-confidence and self-efficacy around subjects when they are in our programs.”

Staying true to their roots, the Museum continues to host mobile programming, servicing 13 counties throughout Pennsylvania and holding, on average, 26 mobile programs per month, including transporting 3D printers and computers outfitted with CAD programming software.

“We try to reach every learner, wherever they are at,” says Ginny, “which is one of the reasons why we do mobile learning an awful lot. Of course, we want people to come to the museum, but we reach into a lot of isolated rural communities, communities that have a disadvantaged economic background. People who are just physically too far to get to us because of transportation issues.”

 

Assisting the Mission

As a nonprofit, the Children’s Museum is privately funding through grants, sponsorships, museum admission and membership dollars. Gift shop sales along with field trip and birthday party revenue boost their bottom line as well. As they look ahead to a planned expansion in programming and hopefully moving to a larger space, they rely on visitors and volunteers to keep them moving forward, especially membership.

“Any institution, any museum, if you visit it and you value it, you should be a member of it,” adds Ginny, “Our memberships are so, so affordable and it helps us in terms of even grant writing. It shows community support. “

While volunteers have been down since Covid, Weibel is so thankful for all those that help create the museums exhibits, which are never farmed out and always built in-house by community volunteers, and those who continue to volunteer their time on the exhibit floor.

Weibel noted, “The community can help by visiting us, volunteering with us. Writing letters to state and county representatives and town officials saying that they really value the Children’s Museum. Volunteer, even if it’s just an event or two. Or just check us out. We have lots of free events all the time. Just come see us. You’re going to love it.”