Digital Maker Space coming soon to Neighborhood North 

Neighborhood North Museum of Play awarded grant to secure a digital maker space 

BEAVER FALLS, Pa. — Neighborhood North Museum of Play was recently awarded $50,000 to create a digital maker space in its facility, which will transform digital comprehension and savvy in Beaver County. 

Funded by the Eden Hall Foundation to expand access to digital technologies to students in Beaver Falls, the digital maker space could look like a specific section of the museum dedicated to vinyl cutting, 3D printing and other tools to help integrate digital technology with making. 

“We sought this grant to help make digital technologies more accessible to kids, but part of what makes a digital maker space exciting is that it creates an accessible entry point for learning about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and computer science for adult learners too,” Christine Kroger, executive director of Neighborhood North Museum of Play, said. “That helps adults, of course, but it also helps the kids when their parents or grandparents have more comfort around new technologies and can help navigate the tools needed to help with homework, job applications, etc.” 

The digital maker space grant is timely, as it coincides with President Joe Biden’s federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which will, in part, invest $1.16 billion in broadband access across Pennsylvania, with Beaver County as a recipient. 

Expanded broadband means more local residents than ever will have internet access, breaking down barriers to technology not only for children and students but for adults, too. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro visited the Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls in early July to discuss internet equity alongside Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 

“When Pennsylvanians are connected to reliable broadband, they have better health outcomes, better education outcomes, and better economic outcomes,” Shapiro said. “That’s why we need to invest in broadband, right now, to grow our economy and strengthen our communities. Accessible, reliable, affordable broadband is important for every community and every family across this Commonwealth — no matter your zip code.” 

This effort comes at a convenient moment as Neighborhood North’s digital maker space isn’t only a STEM activity for children. While the Eden Hall Foundation’s grant positions Neighborhood North for a pilot year, the museum hopes the community maker space will have a larger impact on helping all members of the family take full advantage of regional connectivity in the coming years. 

“Connecting the digital maker space to career pathways early on, especially more creative ones, is also something I find particularly intriguing,” Kroger said. “Our learning ecosystem is interconnected, and I think something like a maker space is ripe for helping learners in all the stages in that system in interesting ways.” 

Equipment will be installed by the end of August with Neighborhood North staff receiving professional development from the Carnegie Science Center through September. The first project is slated for October. By late-September, the space should be open to the public. 

Participation in the digital maker space for children and families will be covered by the cost of admission. 

About Neighborhood North Museum of Play: Neighborhood North Museum of Play is Beaver County’s first children’s museum where you’ll find a unique space designed to foster curiosity, learning, and connection. Neighborhood North envisions our diverse communities strengthened by families through playing, making, and innovating together. 

About The Eden Hall Foundation: At Eden Hall Foundation, we view our work through a woman’s lens to improve the quality of life for all people across our region. This perspective is unique, and our commitment to the betterment of the region is indisputable. If you work to improve the lives of women, families, and all people in Southwestern Pennsylvania, we urge you to start a conversation. We’re ready to hear from you. 

‘Teaching Artists’ program finally arrives in Beaver County

A Beaver County first: Neighborhood North Museum of Play to anchor arts-integrated programming 

BEAVER FALLS, Pa. — You don’t have to travel all the way to Pittsburgh to find art. Beaver County and the surrounding regions are bursting with hopeful artists and creators awaiting an opportunity to expand their creative reach. 

What Beaver County is lacking, however, is a commitment to arts-integration in our education system. Creativity can often be siloed, instead of seeing art as a vehicle for critical thinking, collaboration, ingenuity and increased comprehension. 

Neighborhood North Museum of Play is hoping to change that narrative in Beaver County. 

The Beaver Falls-based Museum, the first children’s museum in Beaver County, recognizes that kids learn better when the arts are integrated into school subjects rather than primarily being an independent study or elective course. 

“Studies show kids learn better through the arts,” Christine Kroger, executive director of Neighborhood North Museum of Play, said. 

The arts — from painting and poetry to theater and music and everything in between — provide opportunities for exploration and playfulness, and they give students hands-on experiences that make learning more memorable, creative and fun. 

According to the Kennedy Center, “Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both."

“Research shows that arts integration practices foster deep learning of core academic content, as well as arts processes, encourage collaboration and creative problem solving, build social emotional learning, and improve the learning climate, among many other benefits. Many educators desire this, but time and funding can be barriers, which is why teaching artist residencies can be valuable supplements to schools and community programs,” Kroger said. 

Through a $35,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments, Neighborhood North is pioneering arts-integrated programming in Beaver County. 

Central to this programming is to create a demand for arts education and “teaching artists” in schools and youth-serving out-of-school programs in Beaver County. The museum plans to attract Beaver County practicing artists and students to training events, which will allow artists to recognize that being a “teaching artist” is a viable career path and seek additional training to do so. 

Neighborhood North’s program will be an iteration of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Arts Education program, which places certified “teaching artists” in schools, libraries, and other community settings to work alongside educators and students to “explore curriculum content through integrated art strategies,” according to the Trust’s Art Education informational video

Through The Heinz Endowments grant, Neighborhood North will act as an anchor in the county for equipping these artists for a pilot year. 

According to Liz Foster-Shaner, PhD, Director of Arts Education at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, “Teaching Artists are practicing, professional artists with experience and training in education. They pass along their passion for the arts by developing one-of-a-kind learning experiences and opportunities for creative expression. A residency with a teaching artist exposes students to new art forms and emphasizes the importance of creative risk-taking and critical thinking as they integrate artistic skills and techniques into other curricular areas, such as dance and physics or music and math. Perhaps most importantly, a residency with a teaching artist brings another caring, compassionate, and creative adult into the school and community environment who can support and nurture the dreams and curiosities of young people.” 

The Trust will partner with Neighborhood North to spearhead a teaching artist program in Beaver County. Artists of all kinds can become certified “teaching artists,” regardless of educational background and experience. 

“Our desire is to open up a pathway to the teaching arts for artists here in Beaver County. We recognize that not every artist will be interested or equipped to become a teaching artist, but for those who are, we believe that it will benefit both the artists and the learning community,” Kroger said. “One of the gifted teaching artists we work with is a professional drummer with a degree in biology. Through professional training, he has been able to adapt those skills to the classroom environment to teach syncopation, patterns, rhyming, and math skills through his craft. These types of skills are translated to artists practicing in nearly any discipline.” 

Beaver County already has a growing arts collaborative through organizations like The Genesis Collective and the Portobello Cultural Life & Arts Center’s on-ramp project, the Baby Bello. Both organizations work to support and connect creatives and the community throughout the county and will be integral partners in galvanizing this commitment to arts-integration in the county’s education system, and beyond. 

Think of Neighborhood North’s arts-integrated programming as a way to learn about the solar system, chemistry, or mathematics but rather than primarily reading from a textbook and memorizing vocabulary, students might use theater or poetry to better understand how the solar system works, or to process math and science equations. 

It’s exploratory. And the students won’t get it right the first time — which is the point. 

This sort of programming is designed to be iterative. A major component of the learning process is working through the content in real time, and sometimes even with their bodies, which can be exceptionally transformative for kinesthetic learners. 

“Because this type of co-creative process requires students to interact and grapple with material as they question, play, and create with peers, learning can become a really rich experience,” Kroger said. “As learners are engaged through multiple senses and as they must try multiple paths to success, content is more likely to not only be retained but to be connected to other areas later on, enhancing the learning experience.” 

Big Beaver Falls school districts committed to Neighborhood North’s “teaching artist” program for a pilot year with the Cultural Trust in 2022-23 with positive outcomes. 

The Heinz Endowments is “devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to our work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls this place home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.” 

The organization selected Neighborhood North for this grant opportunity because the institution believes Neighborhood North’s project “represents an important endeavor in advancing our overall goals. Our success hinges on the organizations and projects we support, so we strive to be thoughtful about our partners and rigorous about the work we support.” 

That grant will help Neighborhood North equip artists who would like to eventually become “teaching artists” in the community. Artists interested in becoming “teaching artists” or learning more about the program can contact Kroger for more information about how to get involved. 

“I am excited when I imagine a future Beaver County where a culture of arts-integration inspires a pipeline of local teaching artists and allows all students to learn through the arts. I am grateful to the Heinz Endowments for helping us to take this first step in that direction,” Kroger said. 

About Neighborhood North Museum of Play: Neighborhood North Museum of Play is Beaver County’s first children’s museum where you’ll find a unique space designed to foster curiosity, learning, and connection. Neighborhood North envisions our diverse communities strengthened by families through playing, making, and innovating together. 

About The Heinz Endowments: The Heinz Endowments seeks to help our region thrive as a whole and just community and, through that work, to model solutions to major national and global challenges. We are devoted to advancing our vision of southwestern Pennsylvania as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Our work is supported by reliable data based on equitable, results-focused goals to cultivate a world where all are treated with fairness and respect and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. 

Talking is Teaching: an early literacy initiative

Neighborhood North is part of the Pittsburgh Peer Learning Collaborative, a cohort of nine organizations in Pittsburgh focused on boosting the early learning and brain development of children from birth through age five. This cohort was tasked with learning about the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail, Talking is Teaching program and plan how to implement this initiative in our local contexts.

“Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” is a public awareness and action campaign that aims to motivate parents and caregivers to talk, read, and sing more with their young children from birth. The campaign partners with trusted messengers to share information with parents about the critical role they play in their child’s development, as well as concrete tools to help them engage in language-rich activities with their children.”  Neighborhood North invited our local McDonald’s restaurant to partner with us on this program, as many of our young families spend time there.  Both the store leadership and Tri County Management were enthusiastic to team up with us on this initiative. This program will include signage in the restaurant, table activities, and information and books distributed to families. 

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” aims to give parents and caregivers the tools to talk, read and sing more with their young children from birth, increasing meaningful interactions that are critical to healthy brain development. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 60 percent of American children start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language, math, and social-emotional skills. Research shows that during the first years of life a child’s brain forms one million new neural connections every second and absorbs information like a sponge. This is why simple, everyday interactions with young children—like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs, or telling stories—can better prepare them for school, and lay a strong foundation for their social-emotional development, health, and lifelong learning.

We asked our Geneva College intern, Ainsley Arrington, what excites her about helping with this project.  Here is what she shared: “In partnering with the local McDonald’s restaurant, we hope to incorporate posters, books, and other media into the dining room and the diaper changing stations to create a sustainable way to learn about literacy! ...Not all children have access to programs that help to foster this early childhood intervention, so they may fall behind other children within their grade or age group. This is where Neighborhood North comes in! Our goal is to give children the opportunity to learn with their families in a common place. Another study found that environmental writing, like the text on menus, street signs, and posters helped children to build their reading skills outside of school settings. This partnership with McDonald’s will allow children to receive literacy education with their families in a new, comfortable context.”

As part of our “Talking is Teaching” campaign, Neighborhood North and McDonald's are committed to training McDonald employees to be trusted messengers in the community, and share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their child’s early brain development. These trusted messengers will distribute language-rich Talking is Teaching materials—including books that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children.

For more information about the Talking is Teaching campaign, visit

Fall Maker Opps!

“Maker education offers a transformational approach to teaching and learning that attends to the real and relevant needs of learners and humans. It is an approach that positions agency and student interest at the center, asking students to become more aware of the design of the world around them, and begin to see themselves as people who can tinker, hack and improve that design.” (

Girl playing in cardboard box

We jumped into the fall with some maker programming at Neighborhood North and had a blast creating using both high- and low-tech methods!  In September, our friends at the Carnegie Science Center’s Mobile Fab Lab set up their high-tech camp in our Maker Space for three days and gave our learners the opportunity to design, fabricate, and experiment with STEM-based making.  Every fourth-grade classroom from both local elementary schools was able to come for a field trip, and both the teachers and students loved the experience.  Our afterschool program had the opportunity to dig into a two-hour workshop and experiment with the earthquake table. Our Program Coordinator, Karissa Collins shared, “The after-school program students through Trails had their first program on Thursday and were able to build houses that needed to withstand the earthquake table. At first, the kids were struggling to understand but once the FabLab instructors showed them, they loved working with the Inkscape and Laser printers to build their projects. I was not here for other projects throughout the week but know they also make gliders and keychains with the laser printer… the instructors were fabulous!”  In addition to the weekday programs, families were able to explore a variety of making activities during an open maker workshop on Saturday, and this was a time of high creativity, energy, and community. We look forward to future opportunities to bring digital making into our space.

The Neighborhood North Team went low-tech the following week to celebrate the Day of Play with a Cardboard Challenge of our own.  Thank you to everyone who donated cardboard boxes to be used for this event- they were put to incredibly good use.  We set up stations in the museum and invited families to create any part of a city that they could imagine- from a skyscraper to a house to a castle to a bridge.  We had a fabulous turn-out of young artists and engineers who created ingenious and beautiful structures.  At the end of our time, we constructed a city using all of the buildings designed by our families.  Our team has voted that The Cardboard Challenge will become an annual Neighborhood North event, so make sure to start saving that cardboard for next year!

University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) Study on Learning Pod

In the Spring of 2021, Neighborhood North was invited to participate in a study being conducted by the RAND Corporation’s Pittsburgh office and the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education to learn from families, educators, community-based organizations, and school districts as they work to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic through the small learning communities known as “pods” or “hubs.” The study aimed to capture the experiences of our learning pod staff and families and understand what was helping or hindering our work during this time by conducting individual telephone interviews with selected Neighborhood North staff and partners and selected parents/guardians of learning pod students. Through Neighborhood North’s participation, along with the study of a variety of other learning pods across the nation during this time, RAND and CRPE hope to identify emerging trends, best practices, and sticking points.  The desire is to help create an informed and nuanced conversation about how to support families, educators, community-based organizations, and school systems as we navigate the ongoing pandemic, as well as to inform public reports that synthesize the experiences and insights of participants and the lessons learned across the study so others can learn from the work we are doing into the future. 

You can download and read the report here.

ED Field Trip...

A perk of being the parent of college-aged children means getting to visit the fun places they decide to study!  One of my twins has recently begun a doctoral program in sunny California, and I had the opportunity to spend a beautiful 10 days soaking up the West Coast. 

Of course, during that time, I visited museums.  From Santa Monica to San Francisco, I had the pleasure of exploring art, science, and children’s museums, meeting with directors, educators, and exhibit designers passionate about their work. 

One of the things that especially resonated and affirmed the work we are doing here in Beaver Falls was the vision of each museum to create spaces that would nourish the entire person as a learner and social being through play and interdisciplinary experiences.  Additionally, the historic beginnings of many of the spaces I visited were not dissimilar to our own story, growing up out of their community's need for more equitable and progressive educational places for underserved families, often by a group of community members.  Knowing that some of these now robust and flourishing museums had begun with the same humble beginnings as our project was equally encouraging to us in our phase of our journey.

Meeting with museum colleagues who care deeply about their communities and the way their work can be an influence for good is always an energizing experience for which I am grateful.  There is something uniquely special about the collaborative spirit of folks in the children’s museum field which allows newcomers like me to be both learners and innovators in this space.  As always, I am thankful to be part of the work of this creative learning ecosystem.

Christine Kroger
Executive Director

Memberships @ Neighborhood North

Did you know that Neighborhood North now offers Membership subscriptions? 

Annual Membership Pricing:
$55- Family Plan ( 3 people)*
$75- Group Plan (4-5 people)*
$115- Neighborhood Plan (6+ people)*
*Each plan includes one free pass for up to two children for Parents’ Night Out.

Starting March 18th, this Membership is an even sweeter deal, as we will be expanding our Open Play hours to include Fridays!  

Our new Open Play hours will be:
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 10:00 am- 2:00 pm. 

Daily Play Passes are also available for purchase for General Admission to Open Play online or at the door. 
Daily Adult Play Pass- $5
Daily Child Play Pass- $5
Seniors/Veterans- $3
Family Max (for immediate family members)- $25
Infants 12 months and under- FREE
Access- $3 (Any guest who presents their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card upon arrival will be given an admission price of $3.00 per person for up to 5 adults or children)

Kids at a globe

Parenting Musically

Parenting Musically will begin in-person programming on Tuesday, April 5 at 10:00 am!

Neighborhood North Museum of Play is pleased to expand our parent engagement programs with the addition of Parenting Musically. You may have seen posts about Parenting Musically and perhaps, viewed the Facebook Live Events or Parenting Musically Playlist on our Facebook page. But what is it and who is Michelle Muth?  When will it be in-person?
Parenting Musically is an early childhood music and movement program for adults AND the children who love them. It is focused on helping parents learn how music combined with parenting creates a dynamic and robust parenting tool. Classes are filled with active music-making with instruments, movement and songs aimed at enhancing important skills such as communication, social interaction, and self-organization. It is an inclusive environment and all families with children under 5 years of age are welcome. In the midst of all the fun and music making, parents will be given tips on how music can be used at home to enhance their child’s development, increase their bond and be supported as a parent/caregiver.
For a number of years Michelle offered Sprouting Melodies® programs in Beaver County. What she loved most in class was seeing the parents become more comfortable singing, making music and interacting playfully with their children. Second favorite, was hearing from parents about how they used music at home and how it helped with a transition, calming a child and small moments of togetherness.  This focus on parent versus child outcomes is what spurred Michelle to create Parenting Musically. The program utilizes the Sprouting Melodies® framework, an award winning early childhood music and movement program, created and offered by board-certified music therapists with the designation MT-BC. This framework and the required MT-BC credential guarantee a foundation of knowledge not available with other early childhood music programs. Michelle has the same requirement for Parenting Musically.
Who is Michelle Muth, MT-BC?
Michelle is a child at heart often self-identifying as a 7-year old in an adult body. Children tend to be drawn to her with her playful nature, her innate ability to connect and always ready to have fun and laugh. Michelle loves creativity in all its forms with music being a foundation to her creativity. In fact, she has quite a musical instrument collection at home with her main instruments being piano, guitar and world percussion. She lives in Center with her husband Richard; two cats, Minerva and Godric; and American Dingo dog, Samwise. You can often see her hiking in the woods with Samwise at Brady’s Run Park and around Beaver County.
Michelle’s Montgomery Muth’s, official credentials are that she is a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC), music educator, drum circle facilitator and founder of M3 Music Therapy. She has advanced training in Neurologic Music Therapy and Early Childhood Music Therapy and is a HealthRHYTHMS® facilitator. Michelle studied drum circle facilitation with Arthur Hull, Christine Stevens, and Jim Donovan.  Above all, she is passionate about music’s ability to create positive change to help people connect, engage and thrive in their lives.
What’s Next for Parenting Musically
NNMOP and M3 Music Therapy, out of an abundance of caution, have provided samples of Parenting Musically via FB Live Events on Saturday mornings at 9:45 am. The hope is to move to in-person classes in the spring. While COVID numbers continue to decrease in Beaver county, children under 5 are our most vulnerable. We want to be sure to offer the safest environment manageable once in-person. Stay tuned for more information.

OT @ Neighborhood North

Hi, everyone! My name is Katie Caspero and I am a pediatric occupational therapist that supports conducting needs assessments for non-profit organizations. Throughout this past spring, I was honored to be able to support Neighborhood North by spending time learning about the space, meeting the kids, and working alongside the wonderful staff. I was able to hear the stories of how much this community meant to everyone and I saw how tight-knit and supportive everyone was to one another. I loved being able to walk the kids from Soma to Neighborhood North and hear the beeps and see the waves of familiar faces recognizing one another.

 During my time, I talked with parents, community members, teachers, educational administrators, staff at Neighborhood North, and the kids themselves. I learned so much about what their daily lives looked like and I was able to complete a broad picture of strengths and barriers based on those conversations. I used the analogy of a river to demonstrate what obstacles (or rocks) may be in their way and what supports (or driftwood) help their days (or river) flow more smoothly. This is called the Kawa River Model and here is one example of what part of those conversations showed us. If you would like to review the entire presentation you can find that here.

Here are some of the recommendations that came from this assessment:

1.     Offer parent training related to specific curriculums being used in school

for math and reading

2.               Create a resource binder of activities so that any staff (volunteer, staff, leadership) could fill in and support activities

3.               Offer training for both parents and staff on the development and age-appropriate activities that support social-emotional and educational learning.

If you have any questions about this assessment or what information we found feel free to reach out to me at or Christine Kroger at

 It was so great working with such a committed and engaged community and I feel confident that Neighborhood North will continue to be a vital, invaluable community space and resource for the Beaver Falls area.

Scribble Stones

Our Scribble Stones project was inspired by the namesake book authored by Diane Alber.  According to the author, “ This story starts off with a little stone who thinks he will be become something amazing but then soon realizes he had become a dull paper weight. He's on a mission to become something greater and in the process meets scribble and splatter and they all come up with a creative way to bring joy to thousands of people. “

Last year, we had the opportunity to participate in an RMU Covestro Center for Community Engagement SkillShare Day. We were matched with a museum expert as well as a team from Howmet Aerospace to build an initial pre- and post-survey as well as an initial distribution method.  There was incredible opportunity for learning and some great outcomes, one of which was the idea to distribute the survey via painted rocks and QR Codes. We loved this idea and thought it was creative and playful.

Although we weren’t able to connect our survey to the painted rocks this year, we loved the idea of getting our name out via a creative and accessible means.  So, we decided to follow the example of #beavercountyrocks and use the hashtag #NNMOP (Neighborhood North Museum of Play).  We have had hundreds of Scribble Stones painted at community events and by local families and afterschool programs.  We have also partnered with the Beaver County Library System to send out Scribble Stone Make & Take kits through each of the libraries.

Neighborhood North envisions our diverse communities strengthened by families through playing, making, and innovating together.  So CREATE, FIND, or SHARE a Scribble Stone today, and make sure to check out the #NNMOP.

The story of a bunch of ordinary folks connecting their powers to create something cool is the story of Neighborhood North-- and we welcome you to join in.