A place to run, play and learn

It was a cold, rainy day in 2016 when Lewisburg resident Abby Gulden-Luthi, stay-at-home mom of 4 boys under the age of 7, had a brainstorm.

 

“My children are very active,” said the former college administrator. “I realized there must be other kids who needed an indoor space where they could run and play — and learn at the same time.” What they needed, she thought, was a children’s museum; the nearest one was in Harrisburg, more than an hour away.

 

Her friend Erin Jablonski, a chemical engineering professor at Bucknell University, shared Ms. Gulden-Luthi’s vision. Soon the pair had developed a feasibility study and held focus groups for a sustainable, educationally enriching museum for children aged 8 and under. By March, the cofounders had registered the museum as a nonprofit, formed a board of directors and leased 9,000 square feet of space in a building that once housed Lewisburg High School. Over the next year and a half, they recruited an advisory panel of educators to plan curriculum-based exhibits, researched best practices at children’s museums across the country and offered naming opportunities to local businesses. 

 

Open for business

 

The museum opened in September, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a welcome from Lewisburg’s mayor, Judy Wagner. That weekend, more than 500 members of the community poured in, enjoying the 3,000-square-foot main exhibition, a child-sized Weis Markets grocery store, and the Bodyworks Room, featuring a crawl-though model of the digestive system and a doctor’s office. The Playtime Theatre Room houses the Creation Station, a space for art and free play funded by a $5,000 donation from Geisinger Health Foundation.

 

“The Lewisburg community was so supportive and generous from day one,” said Ms. Gulden-Luthi, whose four sons were on hand for the opening and especially enjoyed keeping shelves stocked at the mini grocery store. Many volunteers, including senior citizens and local college students, were on hand to help with the opening, but more are still needed, she said. (See the related profile of Geisinger’s Dr. Vanessa Troiani, volunteer board member.)

 

The museum features a special activity each weekend. For information on hours, programs or volunteering, visit LewisburgChildrensMuseum.org.