A few weeks ago I was in the car driving with my son when the conversation turned to the topic of community and how often names evoke a feeling of place. It was from that conversation that my son asked me how we came up with the name for Neighborhood North. That simple question led to a great conversation that I thought would be meaningful to share with all of you, as well.
Back in 2018, when our initial Advisory Board was gathered under the name BF Kids, we realized that a more regionally focused name was needed for our children’s museum. I gathered our board for some planning sessions where we listed our core organizational values and goals. From that time together, we pulled out words and themes that were central to our identity. Place, belonging, and community came up quite often, especially as it pertained to creating a space where inclusion, listening and being known were valued and honored. To us, that meant anchoring it in an actual brick and mortar location where children and families in the community could come and be a part of its creation, building a sense of both stability and growth. Even more, it meant being part of a local context and leaning into our interdependency with our neighbors. We felt like the word “Neighborhood”, more than any other, embodied all of these qualities. “North” anchored us directionally both in our County and regionally, as Beaver Falls is located north in Beaver County and northwest of Pittsburgh. Being fully cognizant of the rich heritage of the “neighborhood” that Fred Rogers had established in Pittsburgh, we wanted to ensure that our vision of neighborhood was rooted first in the community of Beaver Falls before expanding outward.
“Museum of Play” came about as a way to describe what we are in a way in which we hope brings an equity lens to our work. Some values that arose during our session were around the importance of play, imagine, and intergenerational learning/connection. We are a children’s museum and recognize the wonderful contribution and history of children’s museums to the field, and especially its female leaders, however we decided not to use the term “children’s museum” in our name. Instead, because our organization grew up out of the need for more equitable education for our community’s young learners and was influenced by a liberatory framework, we wanted our name to reflect those ideas. Play is the learning language of children and can help advance equity and curiosity by providing cognitive benefits and social-emotional skills for our early learners and their caregivers, preparing them to better excel at all areas in school. Additionally, through playful learning environments, a variety of information is accessible to diverse people, decreasing the knowledge gap, and creating better communities for everyone.
We believe that our Museum of Play will be a space where novel learning and making will occur and where a shared language and understanding will emerge that unifies rather than divides our neighborhood.
That is a lot packed in a name, and it reminds me why names are so important. As I share this story with you, I am re-energized about this vision and invite you to come play with us!
Founder & Executive Director
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Honoring Fred Rogers, creator of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, "Won't You Be My Neighbor Day" is on March 20th. Neighborhood North will dedicate the full week of March 20-25 to exploring emotions through mask-making in the Maker Space, followed by stage or puppet show performances.