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.
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)
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.
Community Heart & Soul
by Rochelle Burks, Heart & Soul Project Coordinator
Rochelle Burks is a master connector, musician, and friend to many in Beaver Falls. After completing her second Master’s Degree this past year, she was hired to be the Project Coordinator for the Beaver Falls Heart & Soul grant and has begun gathering a team to begin doing the visioning work aimed at elevating all voices in the community.
Beaver Falls is home for me...now, that is.
These are words I didn’t originally plan on saying when I moved to Beaver Falls for graduate school in 2016. At that time, I thought I would finish my degree and then move back to Chicago with my family. However, over the last few years, I have found new family in the friends and neighbors that I’ve met around town. These loved ones, now so dear to me, have fed me, housed me, celebrated with me, cried with me and have truly shown me what it means to be committed to a place, to this beloved city, to Beaver Falls.
I now find myself content in my 5th avenue home where I live with my three roommates. Our street is booming with life and laughter as well as a number of challenging realities all of which we bear together. I have not known a communal love and generosity quite like that which I experience everyday in Beaver Falls. Now that I have been touched by it, I am committed to giving back to the community with my time, energy, and talents.
One of many lanes in which I get to do this is through a community program called Heart & Soul. Funded by a grant awarded to the Beaver Falls Community Development Corporation (CDC) by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Heart & Soul gives the residents of Beaver Falls a chance to share their stories and make a change in the city. As the Project Coordinator for this program, I get to work with a talented group of community volunteers in bringing out voices of neighbors from whom we don’t often hear. In this process, it is crucial that we involve EVERYONE as we try to determine what matters most to us as a community.
Similarly, Neighborhood North: Museum of Play exerts the maximum effort to include everyone in their programming, as well. Neighborhood North provides the youth of Beaver Falls access to STEM education all too often reserved only for the more affluent school districts. Parents are also empowered in their role as key players in their child’s education bringing unity to the family unit and ultimately the greater community as well. It is only through such unity that Beaver Falls will flourish unto her true potential, and we all have a role to play in this. The people and culture of Beaver Falls have done so much to contribute to my flourishing. It only seems right that now I do all that I can to return the favor.
The strength of a community is proven in times of crisis, but this strength is crafted in the mundane and ordinary moments when a community chooses to hope together. The moments when citizens believe there is something worth fighting for. The forgotten Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons when women and men bring their giftings and passions together for the common good. These are the moments that often go unnoticed and these invisible moments produce a deep and hidden strength.
2020 presented our community with a year we will never forget. Many of us were gripped with fear and uncertainty when COVID-19 began sweeping through our world, our nation, and our region. Schools shut down, businesses closed, churches closed and we sat in our homes wondering what would become of us.
The spring months of 2020 were grueling; and yet, our communal grit and strength began to rise and spring forth. Long-formed community partnerships showed tremendous creative ability in identifying and problem-solving the needs of our people. Community non-profits filled vehicles with meals and delivered to those most in need. Long-standing food pantries and soup kitchens tripled their output to serve the increased demographic in need of daily food. Our school district worked intricately with partners, parents, and students to ensure best case scenario distance learning situations. All working on the same streets. All knowing they had a part to play.
Because our church is just closing our first decade of existence, we see ourselves as a vital yet new kid on the block. We often look to long-standing community churches or partners to lead the way as we find our place in our beloved city. As the pandemic dug its claws into us, we knew we had two critical gifts to offer - our people and our building.
We were able to partner with Neighborhood North to host both a summer learning program and an elementary after-school program through the fall season in our building on 14th street and 6th Ave. These programs worked very well in our space and seemed to offer critical teaching and tutoring for our children. Further, it provided a social space where older teens and young adults could pour into our youth in vibrant and life-altering ways. I will remember these days fondly and I believe these moments will give us hope in times of struggle that are sure to come.
Neighborhood North's deep desire to work in partnership and willingness to flex and adapt programming to match changing needs have made this organization a critical asset to our city. Our church is grateful for good relationships with leadership and staff and trust that we will see many more powerful moments of partnership in the months to come. We cannot see our city moving toward wholeness and equity without Neighborhood North. Even more, we would not want to walk the journey without them.
The strongest community is based around a general belief that all of us are needed for wholeness to be achieved. In other words, each of us has a part to play in the journey toward wholeness and life. As the pastor of The Soma Gathering, I am honored for the part our church community has been able to play since the pandemic has started. I see a city that is just beginning to flex its muscles. I see a city of beauty and struggle, fear and hope, pain and promise. I see a city growing strong.
Here's to each of us playing our part,
Caleb Musselman, Pastor of The SOMA Gathering
Caleb Musselman is the new pastor at the SOMA Gathering, taking on this role just before COVID. We are thankful for the ways we have been able to partner with SOMA throughout this past year and look forward to many creative and fun opportunities to collaborate in the year to come.
Chris Padgett is a proud dad, the owner of Human City Creative, as well as one of Neighborhood North’s Founding Board Members. Chris currently serves on the Neighborhood North Education Committee, and we appreciate the artful insights, unique perspectives, and gifted storytelling that he brings to our project. He also serves on the board of the Genesis Collective.
I would get lost in the silence often, sitting on the gravel that wove around to the inside of the circle pathway before leading back out of it again. This spot was often in the shade in the early morning hours before the sun started to rise above the treetops to warm my back. I was in the prayer labyrinth at Spring Street Garden, and pulling weeds in the morning had become a regular rhythm for me in the summer of 2016.
At the time, I didn’t really know many people in Beaver County. I had moved to the area from Illinois to remain close to my then 5-year-old daughter and spend life with her. But in the aftermath of poor personal life choices, I had found myself with a deep sense of personal loss and was trying to make sense of my past and my identity. It was here in the garden that I found myself in the process of trying to breathe, trying to grieve, and taking comfort in being alone in prayer. I was quietly in the process of trying to understand what a healthy new life looked like.
It was on one of these summer mornings that I was working in the garden, that a man who stopped by the garden, got my attention. I walked over to him, not knowing him or what he might like to talk about and all these years later, I can’t say I remember the specifics of the conversation I had with him. But what I do remember is that he gave me the gift of sharing who he is, in his story, his struggles, and his personal connection to the area I was just beginning to become acquainted with.
It was in moments like these, there in the garden, as I quietly walked the prayer labyrinth searching for healing and as residents stopped by to share their stories with me, a word kept coming back to me. It was the word “listen.” And it didn’t stop there.
Authenticity and vulnerability would surface in conversations I had with residents at Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Aliquippa, or with a man named Fletch who stopped me late at night in Beaver to play me a song on his guitar or sitting in a car with June and Brownie waiting for the rain to stop before fixing bicycles near Logstown, or in sharing a meatball dinner with Angela after just meeting her in Beaver Falls.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that personal struggles and deep loss a community had faced, had given birth to rich wisdom, empathy, and deep love. And it had begun to affect me in unexpected ways. It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I had benefited from that experience, it was possible others might as well. With my background in film, I thought perhaps these voices could be lifted up, and perhaps they need to be heard for the benefit of both the sharer and the listener.
I began to read Brené Brown and hear about the value of vulnerability and Henri Nouwen, who wrote, “Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings.” And in 2017, I started filming and began Human City Creative, a community-filmmaking organization.
It began with capturing the stories of the grieving parents of The Still Remembered Project in the Pittsburgh area, who bravely shared their stories of grief from their children who had died. With deep empathy, they spoke wisdom of giving grief space and to be able to talk about subjects that may seem taboo. They taught me that grief can sometimes transform into a deep love for others in ways that people felt known and heard.
It continued with the personal story of my dear friend, Jinger in New Brighton, who honestly and bravely talked about overcoming addiction and pushing to find her true value amidst all of the voices inside her that spoke against it. It continued with my friend Marlon in Aliquippa, who relentlessly created beauty with his art, even when he felt it wasn’t seen. It continued with my friend Jim who shared about finding God in the silence, with my friend Kolbe in Beaver Falls who shared the importance of hope, with my friend Christine who shared that play is the language of children learning. It continued with work I’ve been blessed to do through county work with RiverWise, hearing residents speak on what healthy community quality of living looks like and with all the helpers during COVID-19, like Felicia in Ambridge who asked the questions constantly “Who is being left behind?” and “Who is falling through the cracks?” The truth is, I could go on and on.
Through the past 5 years in Beaver County, there has been so much I have heard in hearts as well as my own. There is beauty, there is complexity, there is mess. In that time, however, there is one common thing I disagree with. I have heard it said that Beaver County used to have so much going for it, and that it was a beautiful place in the past. I can’t speak for what it was, I wasn’t here at that time. But I do know what it has been to me and what it has meant to me. I know that for me, what I have found here, is a friend. That it is one of the richest and most beautiful places I know.
So, thank you Beaver County. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. You didn’t know it, but through you, I was sat with in grief as you talked about what it was like to experience loss. I was given wisdom when you talked with me about identity and the value and dignity of human life. I was told what healthy love looks like when you showed me the people who wanted the best for you and did not hesitate to show up when you were in need. Money did not buy that, but it had all the worth in the world.
I’m definitely not perfect at it, and I lose my footing often, but I am looking forward to continuing sitting with you and sharing your stories as long as you’ll have me in that sacred space.
Beyond the mere Dodo: Why I am Excited about Neighborhood North
Written by Daniel Rossi-Keen, PhD, Executive Director, RiverWise
Last week, for the first time since COVID-19 shut down the world, my family went to the museum.
In a normal year, our family generally spends time at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History every few months or so. More often than not it’s my wife who takes the kids, partly because she’s a student of art and partly because I generally have a hard time slowing down long enough to schedule a visit.
If I am honest, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with museums. That may seem like an overly dramatic thing to say and, I suppose it probably is a bit over the top. But there’s some truth to it, so let me try to explain.
Here’s what I love about the museum. I love that when I visit a museum I feel small like there’s so much more to understand and that I am part of a vast history of ideas, inventions, and creative activity. I love seeing what the human mind has created, how we have overcome struggle, and how we have continued to evolve in our capacity to adapt and innovate. I enjoy encountering a catalog of what we’ve gotten wrong, where we’ve created conflict, and how we have moved beyond some of the darkest periods of human history. In short, I love a museum because it exposes me to the expansiveness of our human story.
With all that being said, you might be wondering about the hate side of my relationship with museums. I’ve actually thought quite a bit about the matter and can first remember encountering this feeling at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art nearly 20 years ago. At its core, my frustration with museums is that they often ask patrons to examine a very narrow piece of a wildly complicated story. Maybe it’s a painting that captures a brief moment in history, an invention displayed statically in a glass case, a stuffed Dodo bird that is artificially isolated from its environment, or the complicated story that led to its extinction.
None of the exhibits I have described above are inherently bad. But they do grate against my innate inclination to appreciate the interconnectedness and relationships between things. A Dodo bird needs a context, a painting has a complicated back story, and an invention represents a complex interplay between people, commerce, science, and so much more. When I visit a museum, I often feel like the interconnectedness between things gets lost, that complicated history gets boiled down to static artifacts in ways that seem somehow wrong, or at least incomplete, to me.
I could keep going on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I want to take just a moment and explain why my love/hate relationship with museums came to mind when thinking about Neighborhood North: Museum of Play. For the last couple of years, as the Executive Director of RiverWise, I have been privileged to advise the team of collaborators from Neighborhood North and the Beaver Falls CDC who are working to reclaim the former News Tribune Building. As readers of this newsletter will likely know, the TRIB Building will eventually become the home of Neighborhood North: Museum of Play.
As we have worked together to envision the future of the TRIB Building, the leadership team has deliberately committed itself to something called eco-district thinking, which is a community development process that deliberately prioritizes the inescapable connections between numerous areas of the human story. I don’t have time to get into the details in this piece, but if you’re interested you can find a quick introduction to this way of thinking here. Or, if you would like to see how this thinking is influencing the future of communities around Beaver County, you can take a look at this document.
What most excites me about the future of Neighborhood North: Museum of Play is that its leaders and supporters recognize the importance of viewing their project holistically. A children’s museum can be so much more than just a place that holds static artifacts. It can be a place of imagination, inquiry, trial and error, education, motivation, challenge, success, and so much more. More than adults, children have yet to compartmentalize their experience, and instead, often allow creativity to be the driving force for how they see the world. That the leadership of Neighborhood North: Museum of Play is committed to thinking about the inherent connections between all aspects of our lives is a joy and sense of inspiration for me.
I look forward with excitement and much hope, encouraged to see how Neighborhood North: Museum of Play is moving ever closer to creating a cultural site in Beaver County that can inspire and motivate generations of young people. We need more of this innovative and synthetic thinking, and I am beyond honored to be along for the ride.
Daniel Rossi-Keen is the Executive Director of RiverWise and the Advisor to the Tribune Group. He has been most helpful by asking unexpected questions that help to bring clarity and often challenge perspectives and assumptions, such as with the Dodo bird above. His work to align multiple Beaver County projects with eco-district priorities has been an important effort during the past several years, and Neighborhood North is grateful to be part of it.
Past to Present Plans for Innovation
Written by Charles “Mick” Jones, Beaver Falls City Manager
When it comes to implementing planned change for a community, I couldn’t agree more with the words of motivational speaker Michelle Homme when she said that “Our entire community must be bold in its mission of authentic caring for one another in order to influence a better tomorrow”. I believe and have found that before a community can grow or become what it envisions, it not only must learn to love and care for another, but it must prove it not by just mere words, but by their very actions. In my many years of public service, from my time in the military, my decades as a law enforcement officer, and the past five years of being a city manager for the City of Beaver Falls, I have learned that it takes the entire community, from city hall to the various businesses, churches, non-profit organizations and most important of all, its citizens to share and implement a common vision of what they want their community to look like and even more what they want their community to be.
Beaver Falls, much like most post-industrial mill towns, has seen better days, but I along with so many other dedicated and passionate people are committed to not letting our past define who we are today. As a city manager for this awesome community, I am continually humbled by the heart and soul of our community and the willingness to create a new sense of purpose now, and in the future.
The Beaver Falls Downtown Plan is a prepared document that identifies our community’s collective vision and is the basis for implementing the Innovation Corridor Initiative located right here, in the heart of our downtown. The Innovation Corridor Initiative is a cooperative effort that involves and started with PennDot’s redesign of our main street that included a “road diet”, new state-of-the-art traffic signals, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and bicycle lanes. As we continue to build upon this “planned change” in our downtown, the Innovation Corridor creates new opportunities for a new vision for our community and supports other projects such as the construction of the anticipated Mycelia Cultural Arts building, the potential home of the Penn State Innovation Hub, the new redesign of Library Park and the continued collaboration with organizations such as the Beaver Falls Community Development Corporation and Neighborhood North Museum of Play.
As we move forward with our plan to implement an Innovation Corridor, Neighborhood North Museum of Play is and has been one of our biggest supporters with this endeavor. As with any community development project, oftentimes the smallest voices of our community, our children, are not heard or considered with planning, but we are thankful for organizations like Neighborhood North for providing that voice and for educating us about the needs of our children and families when it comes to community development. As Ben Bernanke, the former Chair of the United States Federal Reserve once said “Community Development has a long history of innovation and learning from experience”. If there is anything I believe we all have learned about community development in the last several years, it’s never about forgetting your past, it’s all about learning and growing from your past.
Re-Planting Roots in the Community
Written by Bekah Knab, Graduate Student and RD at Geneva College
When I moved back to Beaver Falls in 2018 to start graduate school, I was overwhelmingly encouraged by the projects and developments happening in the city. To be honest, I was not thrilled to move back to my hometown, but I was quickly humbled by the individuals who were faithfully engaged in pursuing the best for Beaver Falls. I needed to move away and come back to have eyes to see the beauty that currently exists in this city and to be excited about the potential for things to come.
One of the projects that sparked excitement was Neighborhood North: Museum of Play. A children’s museum? Opening right here, in Beaver Falls? The more I heard about it, the more I knew I wanted to be involved. The energy and vision of NN drew me in as I saw their pop-up exhibits around town, or heard individuals share about the project at CDC meetings. This big dream for a place of creativity, play and belonging in Beaver Falls was actually a reality, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Now, as part of the Education Committee at NN, I get to combine my passion for education, development, and Beaver County. Working with an incredibly gifted team of individuals has inspired me not just at NN, but also as I complete my graduate program. Being involved in the greater community gives more purpose to my studies and work at Geneva College. This college exists in a resilient city where innovation and creativity are thriving, and it is a privilege to learn from the Beaver Falls community as I also learn in the graduate classroom.
As a Resident Director, I am passionate about showing students what it looks like to live in the community. Through my involvement at NN, I am able to encourage the college students with whom I live to be involved in the city and build relationships outside of campus. I have the opportunity to invite students to be a part of something bigger than campus life and learn what it means to be a good neighbor. These opportunities not only shape us now but will continue to influence our community involvement, as we eventually move into neighborhoods and cities of our own.
The invitation to be involved with NN has also confirmed my desire to stay in Beaver County after I graduate in the spring. Although it is not the only factor, participating in this project has helped me re-plant roots in the community. The shared vision of everyone committed to NN and to this city has inspired me to stay and continue to grow here. Once you catch hold of the passion for this place, it is difficult to imagine leaving. Good things are happening here at NN as we navigate the current COVID-19 season and continue to plan for the future. It is a privilege to be on this team of hard-working, creative, and committed individuals, and I am grateful to be a part of the NN family.