ERIE, Pa. — The $18 million expansion of the ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum doubled the size of the Erie facility, which is a three-story hub of educational play. New exhibits include a climbing room, with bridges to five model lighthouses; a 45-foot water table; a life-size Operation game; and a model train that circles on a track suspended from the ceiling.
The museum’s executive director, Ainslie Brosig, will discuss the expansion project when the Penn State Behrend Speaker Series resumes Jan. 30. Her talk, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in Room 180 of the Burke Center, is free and open to the public.
As part of Behrend’s 75th anniversary celebration, this year’s Speaker Series is showcasing Behrend alumni. Previous talks featured Jeremy O’Mard, a senior managing consultant at IBM Consulting, and Julia Cecchetti, a propulsion engineer at SpaceX.
Brosig earned a degree in communication at Behrend in 2001. She worked in community relations at the Erie Zoo before taking on the top job at the children’s museum.
The expansion of the original museum, which was built in 1906, was an opportunity to refocus the exhibits and encourage play-based learning, Brosig said.
“The museum was trying to be too many things,” she said. “We really needed to step back and look at who we were, what we had to offer and what the community needed us to be.”
New exhibits include a handicap-accessible climbing ship, inspired by the U.S. Brig Niagara, a mock auto repair shop and a room with rope-controlled balloons, like those in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The museum also is developing a 9,500-square-foot outdoor classroom.
“We know that if children are introduced to STEAM learning — science, technology, engineering, art and math — early in life, it piques their curiosity, gives them confidence to experiment and influences their future career choices,” Brosig said. “They think they’re playing, but really, they’re learning.”
The Speaker Series at Penn State Behrend is sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and the Harriet Behrend Ninow Memorial Lecture Series Fund. To learn more about this year’s series, visit behrend.psu.edu/speakerseries.