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 [email protected] or Christine Kroger at [email protected]

 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.

Playful Learning Design Workshop

Neighborhood North has been working with the folks from Playful Learning Landscapes (PLLAN) for some time now. The more we learn about their organization and the research behind their process, the more excited we are to bring this phenomenal resource to our community, especially as their mission intersects with some of the needs we were seeing emerge more prominently during covid. Connecting with our Teaching Artists program, we were awarded funding through PACE and the Arts Equity Reimagined fund to support the initial consultation and work with PLLAN in Beaver Falls.

When you are excited about something, it always seems like processes slow down and afford one time for deliberation.  It was no different in this case. We had ample time to reach out to a variety of artists and educators across the county and region to discuss the project and brainstorm possibilities. Those are always energizing conversations which remind me how much genius lives in this region!  We have also had opportunity to begin chatting about needs and desires with local families, both in Beaver Falls and in surrounding communities.  Those conversations affirm that we are going in the right direction.

 After much preparation, we finally held our initial Playful Learning Design Session and Training on September 30. The session was held at Neighborhood North and was offered virtually for those who were unable to attend in person. The interactive workshop was facilitated by PLLAN and Temple University’s Infant & Child Lab, and we had a truly phenomenal couple of hours of mutual learning and brainstorming with the dozen or so artists, community organizers, educators/administrators, and landscape architects. We ended the session energized and looking forward to the community input sessions in the coming weeks. Information about those sessions will be release soon, so check our website or socials. If you are a local artist and are interested in learning more about this project, please reach out for more information to: [email protected].


Beaver Falls Car Cruise

Car Cruise- By Karissa Collins

Our Neighborhood North Car Cruise event on Saturday, September 11th was a success! Thank you to everyone who came out to the parking lot of the museum. We loved connecting with families in our community. It was awesome to see a glimpse of our vision for the museum come to life and take shape. 

 It seemed like kids and parents alike were able to engage with and enjoy all of the festivities of the day. When the children first arrived, they each could pick a matchbox car to keep. Michelle O’Leary, one of the members on the educational committee, used chalk on the pavement to draw an obstacle course for the cars to drive on, complete with roads, lakes, mountains, and pastures. We had an interactive art mural where the kids could put powdered paint on a large canvas and then spray it with water guns. There was also a scribble stone station where kids could paint rocks that will be placed around the community. The day was beautiful and warm so we had a place for the kids to toss around sponge balls and try to rack up points by aiming them at a target on the ground. We had several of our museum exhibits brought outside, including large Lego blocks and an exhibit to race the matchbox cars. 

 In addition to these stations, we had the privilege of having Rochelle Burks come to teach and play drums with the kids that attended. The kids really enjoyed playing the miniature djembe and following the rhythm that Burks played on her djembe. This was a great way to incorporate interactive music to the day. 

 We were glad that several of our community partners could share the day with us. The Community Development Corporation was able to advertise for recruiting new members. One-5 BBQ was also there, serving delicious food. 

 There were many hands that came out to help throughout the day. Several students from Geneva College came and had a lot of fun interacting with the kids from the community. Several members from the Educational Committee helped to make things run smoothly throughout the day. We are grateful to our volunteers and helpers for making this day possible!

 Overall, this was a great event where our community kids got to play, create, and innovate. This event made us even more excited for Neighborhood North to open this fall. Thank you for your support. 

Family Play Days

Family Play Days

Neighborhood North is excited to bring a fun workshop for all ages, from grandparents to toddlers and everyone in between. A series of 5 Interactive Workshops led by Dr. Ariana Brazier from ATL Parent Lab that connects play, race, culture, and literacy.

Intergenerational Play Days  - Families encouraged to attend together!

These events are FREE and a meal is included for all participants.  Space is limited; Advance registration required

All sessions: Thursdays, 4:30 pm - 7 pm 

Session 1: November 18th- The Parent LAB PLAY DAY Series engages participants in interactive games designed to connect the active body to brain development, and thus enhance cognitive learning experiences.

Session 2: December 9th- This dialogue, facilitated through and between physically interactive play activities, will center the value and necessity of play, broadly, at the different ages and stages of students in k-12 education.

Session 3: January 13th- This informative and interactive workshop highlights the various ways that Black children, particularly Black children living in poverty, play.

Session 4: February 10th- We will reflect and explore how play has connected families across generations, cultures, and economic barriers. 

Session 5: March 10th- Together, through participant-facilitated dialogue and movement, we will practice the sharing of culture and exchanging of knowledge through play and critical inquiry.

Participants will learn: 

·        How race and racism informs our play experiences and identity development 

·        Establish foundational knowledge about the educational and cultural value of integrating play into daily interactions with the families in our community 

·        Reigniting the joy of play as adults and as adults with children

·        Generating a commitment to promoting play as an avenue to celebrate, learn, and be in relationships with one another across all spectrums of life  

Ariana Brazier, Ph.D. is a play-driven community-organizer and educator. She received her doctoral degree in English, Critical & Cultural Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Ari has conducted community-based ethnographic research with Black students and families living in poverty in the southeast United States in order to document how Black child play functions as a grassroots praxis. She is the Founder, CEO and President of ATL Parent Like A Boss, Inc. (Parent LAB).

Julia Brazier is a (retired) mentor for Auburn University Family Child Care Partnerships and has served in this capacity for 11 years. She has 30+ years of experience as an early care/education professional, 2 of which were spent as a family child care provider. Julia has 14 years of experience in administrative positions serving, training, and mentoring family child care providers. She also served as the director of child care programs at the Bessemer YMCA for 5 years. Julia is the ATL Parent Like A Boss, Inc. (Parent LAB) Board Chairwoman.


Our signs were installed on the outside of the museum this past week!  We have to give a huge thank you to the Beaver Falls Rotary for their generous donations that made these signs possible and to Brown Dog Sign Company in Ambridge for their good work! That was probably the most public facing of the many exciting steps we have made towards the re-opening of the children’s museum in recent days.

 If you have been journeying with us for a while, you are aware that we opened our Preview Space quickly in August 2020, to run Learning Pods in order to meet the needs of our community’s students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are grateful to have been able to shift so quickly to do so, but it meant leaving some things unfinished in our building.  After our summer programming ended this past July, we closed our building and have been working towards completing exhibits and finishing our space.  We are looking forward to welcoming you back again!

 Our goal is to be open to the public late this fall!  We hope to stay on schedule and will keep you updated on our progress!  Check our website or follow our social media platforms for updates on our museum hours and the new programs we will be rolling out this winter!

 In the meantime, we would love to gather some input on what you’d like to see and when you’d like to visit.  We’d be grateful if you would take a moment to complete this brief survey and share it with family and friends.  Thank you and see you soon!

Museum Programs

May saw our first public event of the year, and we were so happy to welcome families! We hosted a Remake Learning Day event and welcomed nearly 50 people to our museum for a morning of playing, making, and connecting with others. It was fantastic to envision what the future will be like when families come play on a regular basis!
In July, Neighborhood North offered 4 weeks of hands-on workshops, Play Days, and Field Trips to participants in Trails Ministries Summer Hayes Camp, Noah’s Ark Day Care, Aliquippa Impact Summer Camp, and the general public. Some workshops included Art & Animation, Drumming Workshop, Kitchen Chemistry 4H Workshop, and the Carnegie Science Center. This was a full month and gave us the opportunity to host and interact with diverse groups from around Beaver County.
Neighborhood North will be closing our doors to do some much needed renovation from August through October. During that time, we will be working hard to transform the space into the hands-on children’s museum we imagine for our community! We anticipate opening in October with a full menu of intergenerational programming, such as after school programs, reading labs, some great new partnerships for family programs with ATL Parent Like A Boss, workshops for teaching artists, and Parent’s Days Out. Along with this menu of offerings, families will be able to book events and parties or drop-in during our open hour Free Play times during the week. We can’t wait to welcome you back to the space, so keep your eyes open for invitations to our Opening Events in October!

What a Year!

My social media feed was filled with smiling faces of neighborhood children returning to school this week. As I enjoy those images and wish the best for students, teachers, and administrators this year, I am struck by what a difference a year can make!

As we enter upon the start of a new school year, I can't help but reflect upon the year from which we are emerging. It feels especially important to do so this year as the challenges of 2020 afforded so much opportunity to learn with our community about the needs of students and their families and how learning might be done more equitably. We are amazed and grateful that we were able to serve over 150 students through our Community Summer Learning Program, Neighborhood Learning Pods, and Reading Labs from August 2020 through May 2021. We were invited to be a part of some regional and national studies, and we were also able to do a lot of good listening this year. We know that Neighborhood North is better poised to serve our region because of our opportunity to be present during this past year.

Collaboration is a core value of Neighborhood North, but this year, it took on a whole new meaning! Old partnerships were strengthened as we worked together to create innovative programming for students. New collaborations were formed to fill gaps which created a strong interconnected fabric that supported families during the challenges of this pandemic year. Additionally, these relationships began aligning priorities and goals to assess how to best share resources, staff, and knowledge among organizations for a more sustainable ecosystem. There is plenty of work to be done, but we are moving in an encouraging direction.

One of the collaborations whose vision has created increased synergy during this season is the Innovation Corridor- a collaborative initiative of the Beaver Falls municipality and several anchor projects, including Neighborhood North, the Beaver Falls CDC/Tribune Building, the Portobello Building, and the Penn State B-Hive and library system. Read more here.

Teaching Artist Workshop

What did we learn this year?? Although we knew how beneficial arts integration was not only for student learning but for social and emotional well-being, as well, seeing our learners thrive throughout the year in response to our arts programming inspired us to dig deeper into this area.

Through the Arts Equity Reimagined Grant, we will be able to expand on those insights through the creation of a year-long Teaching Artist Workshop series that seeks to activate a group of teaching artists in Beaver County.

Teaching takes many different forms, but at the heart of it is always the student. In this professional learning series, we aspire to center equity, empathy, and creativity so we may all grow as artists, educators and humans. Over the course of 9 sessions, we will engage with a wide range of performing and visual arts as we discuss, question, and play with educational concepts and current teaching practices. This series is for anyone who would like to experiment with how they might expand their teaching skills through the arts, regardless of their education or skill set. Lisa Leibering will co-facilitate all workshops along with a specialized Teaching Artist chosen for their expertise in selected content areas. All workshops will be held on Saturday mornings from 9:00 am-12:00 pm at Neighborhood North Museum of Play, 716 14th St, Beaver Falls, beginning with locally sourced breakfast. Space is limited and tickets are $10/session. Ticket cost can be refunded after attendance if needed.

Below are the details for the first 3 workshops in this series.
October 9, 2021
The Sound of Shadows
Teaching artists: Dennis Garner and Lisa Leibering

November 13, 2021
It’s All About Perspective
Teaching artists: Randall Coleman and Lisa Leibering

December 11, 2021
I Would DYE for You
Teaching artists: Aaron Crutchfield and Lisa Leibering

The second part of the Playful Learning Initiative will employ some of these trained artists to create and install Playful Learning Landscapes’ recommendations for bringing art and playful learning into the community. These Playful Learning Landscapes will focus on multigenerational communication, collaboration, and social interactions known to support early language and STEM learning. By using art as an educational platform in the public space, we both combat the elitism associated with the arts and support early learning through arts-based play in communities that need it most. Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting initiative!

Arts Education at the Reading Labs @ Neighborhood North


As the Beaver Falls School District headed back to full in-person instruction for the final nine weeks, Neighborhood North’s Learning Pods transitioned from a full-day program to an afterschool program serving students in Kindergarten through second grade.  Our Reading Labs operated three days a week, Tuesdays through Thursdays from 3:00-6:00 pm, and focused on strengthening students’ reading and math skills.  Supplemental programming through Geneva College’s CSE students, music and drumming, and a water conservation program through 4H created a fun environment for afterschool learning and play.  Duquesne University’s Department of Occupational Therapy’s Community Engaged Learning (CEL) students worked with our Reading Lab during their summer session.  They adapted a 5-week program into a virtual context designed to include social skills, problem-solving, stress management, self-expression (verbal, written, art) as they learned to effectively lead therapeutic groups. It has been such a fantastic experience to work with a variety of college students throughout this school year.  We are grateful for the different perspectives they bring to our students and are sure the experiences have been rich for them, as well.

Neighborhood North has amazing staff who work hard to create a caring and supportive environment for our learners.  One of the things our teaching artist, Dennis Garner (Live City Entertainment, LLC), has implemented during this time, has been to put our motto to a beat and make it into a song for the kids, with a separate version for the K-2nd grade and the 3rd-5th grade group.  They decided to begin the afterschool time together each day by having each group chant/sing their song to the other group in a “sing-off”.  They found that this daily practice not only helped the kids remember the “rules” or values of the space but helped to create a real atmosphere of camaraderie among its members.  The arts do that. 

We are convinced that arts education is an essential part of how kids learn and that more funding needs to be allocated towards the arts, both in our schools and in our arts education spaces within the community.  Now is the time to advocate for arts education! “On March 12, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. This legislation includes a substantial round of Elementary and Secondary Relief funding (ESSER). This third round of ESSER funding, ESSER III, totals $126,000,000,000 for K-12 education. We’ve literally never typed so many zeros before!!! This will provide districts with nearly eight times the normal amount of dollars they would have to spend in their fiscal year between 2021 and 2024.” (Arts Education Collaborative, 5/2021).  Neighborhood North is proud to be one of the 25 partner organizations supporting the Arts Education Collaborative’s recommendations for arts education investment with school leadership.  

Our Reading Labs came to an end on May 25th, and we are currently busy ramping up for summer programming and planning for the completion of the museum space.  We have so many people and organizations to thank for helping us to support our Beaver Falls students throughout this school year.  It has taken a village, and so THANK YOU to the following partners and supporters: