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. 

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.

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.


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, 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.

A Part to Play

Written by Caleb Musselman, Pastor of The Soma Gathering

A sign that says SOMA, Jesus, Community, Hope

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.


The Gift of Listening

Written by Chris Padgett, Human City Creative

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.




smallest things (1).jpg


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.  




Photo credit: Erin Ninehouser


Photo credit: Erin Ninehouser


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




The now-extinct Dodo Bird at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


The now-extinct Dodo Bird at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.


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.